By Seth Daniel
When Sandra Perdomo’s little daughter saw the kayaks floating off the new pier on Marginal Street last Tuesday, Aug. 8, her eyes lit up as big as silver dollars.
She had never been on a kayak, and certainly had never really been anywhere near the Chelsea Creek for recreational events. But at the first-ever GreenRoots Paddle on the Creek event, there was plenty of room for everyone to grab a paddle and boat across the Creek to Eastie or just kick around the pier with a paddle.
“After she went out, my daughter said, ‘Oh mommy, can we do this again and again?’” said Perdomo. “One time wasn’t enough. She wanted to do this every day. For her, it was the first time in a kayak…This was a great opportunity for the community to be able to use the water for fun. For me, I felt it was the best community event in all of Chelsea because we had a good time with family and friends. It’s a fun activity outside and everyone enjoyed themselves.”
The event featured activities and the Chelsea Police Copsicle Truck up on the expansive concrete pier – which is basically brand new and very much underutilized.
Down in the water by the docks, kayaks were lined up and people were excited to get out on the water.
Looking down from the dock, GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni yelled, “We’re kayaking on the Chelsea Creek. Can you believe it?”
But many like Bongiovanni and other City leaders hope that it becomes much more common.
“We’ve had canoeing and kayaking on the Creek before, but it was with the River Revel, which we had with East Boston,” said Bongiovanni. “We’ve never done it on the Chelsea side on the Chelsea Creek. We wanted to give the community and the kids the opportunity to use their waterway. We’ve been putting a lot of attention on that pier area and we have a vision that one day that could become a park. There’s much more to come on that site. It’s a very key site…Getting out there kayaking and canoeing felt very powerful to people. This was something people said you couldn’t do. We did it.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the long-term goal is to have residents using the Creek for recreation despite the limits of it being a commercial and industrial waterway.
Both Ambrosino and Bongiovanni believe it can be a shared space for both commerce and leisure.
“One of our long-term goals here is to try to provide more access to the Creek,” he said. “I hope some day to have a park in that area where things like that can happen. The PORT Park is great but we’re trying to do something more. If we can use the pier there to do something, it would be great. Everything now is privately owned, but that may not always be the case in the future.”
Many of the youth at the event had never been on the Creek, and even more had never been in a kayak. It’s something that many have struggled with for years in Chelsea, whereas many young people live only a stone’s throw from the waterfront, but don’t even know the waterfront exists.
Long time resident Lisa Santagate said the waterfront had been blocked off to residents for more than a generation. She couldn’t recall ever being able to really access the Creek in her lifetime.
“This is not a one off thing,” said Bongiovanni. “It can be difficult to have recreational boating on the Chelsea Creek, but we’re going to have try as much as we can to get people on the Creek regularly so it becomes something that’s normal. We see that (pier) as a key property that can change the Chelsea Creek in a dynamic way.”