What’s next for Peddocks Island? Advocates are planning its future — and they want the public’s help
A luxury hotel and spa. A wedding venue. A waterfront cafe.
Or how about an outdoor data collection station, a hydropower testing area to research green energy, or a cottage for professors to host educational programming?
Nope, these aren’t amenities at Encore Boston Harbor casino or new facilities being built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They’re a sampling of ideas being floated as part of the Peddocks Island Vision Plan, a long-term project to reimagine and develop the second-largest Boston Harbor island, with the hope of attracting more visitors to its shorelines.
On Thursday, members of the public are invited to share their thoughts on the future uses for the 210-acre site during the last of three open-house meetings about the project. The meeting will be held at Pilot House on Atlantic Avenue, in Boston, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Peddocks Island plan, which began last year, is being managed by Boston Harbor Now, a nonprofit that champions the city’s waterfront and islands. It’s being done in partnership with the National Park Service and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the agency that owns the island.
Peddocks Island is one of 34 islands within the Boston Harbor Islands national and state park network, according to Boston Harbor Now. Peddocks is home to Fort Andrews, a World War II- era chapel, and other structures, and it features hiking trails and natural habitats and wildlife.
Accessible seasonally by ferry, the island is between Quincy and Hull, and it is equipped with amenities such as public water, sewer, and electrical service.
And while its lush greenery, camping yurts, and historic charm are certainly draws, officials are looking for more ways to entice visitors. Last year, according to Boston Harbor Now, only 3,559 people set foot on the island — down from 4,992 in 2017.
“While Peddocks Island is large, we have to work out what it’s going to take to make it a place that people can visit safely and want to be visiting,” said Alice Brown, Boston Harbor Now’s director of planning. “We’re trying to understand what Peddocks does and doesn’t offer.”
To do that, the organization said in September it had tapped Weston & Sampson Design Studio as the lead consultant to develop a “blueprint for creating a transformational visitor experience.”
The firm was joined by a team of landscape architects, urban designers, and island stakeholders to help come up with three concepts for the island — simply labeled A, B, and C — offering a wide range of possibilities.
Concept A focuses on developing features that lean on the themes of history, ecology, and geology; concept B examines how science, research, and experimentation initiatives could enhance the property’s appeal; and concept C looks at adding luxury amenities and buildings to attract more people.
Cheri Ruane, vice president of landscape architecture for Weston & Sampson, said people have been voting and providing feedback on the conceptual designs during recent meetings.
She said the plan isn’t to pick among A, B, or C but to instead choose the concepts that resonate most with people from each proposal to create the overall master plan.
“We are casting ideas on a full spectrum of possibilities to understand where the general consensus is on what’s appropriate for Peddocks,” Ruane said. “We want to take the ideas resonating with the public, and what they want to see most, and come up with a preferred scheme.”
So far, Ruane said, they’ve seen a range of reactions — positive and negative — to the proposals. The idea of turning part of the island into some kind of spa retreat, however, hasn’t been well received, she said.
“That has not been supported by the public, or really anyone,” Ruane said. “But we had to present an array of options.”
Ruane said she feels the direction of the final proposal will focus on building on what’s currently successful and appealing about the island and enhancing it, rather than “ruining what makes the place so special.”
“We don’t want to overdevelop it,” she said. “We want to leverage the magic of Peddocks, and that doesn’t seem to be most effective through a luxury hotel or spa.”
For those who can’t make it to the final open house, Boston Harbor Now launched an online survey where people can share their thoughts about the island. The survey will be available through August on its website.
A draft of the preferred concept should be compiled by sometime this fall. At that point, officials will start looking for ways to fund some of the proposals, which could include developing partnerships with outside institutions and agencies.
“Because it is a park and it’s an island, I think all of this will happen really gradually,” Brown of Boston Harbor Now said. “It’s to help us set a general direction for the island.”
In the meantime, she encouraged people to get out to the oasis this summer, so they can get a sense of what Peddocks Island could become.
“There are lots of possible paths forward,” she said.