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Engaging communities + Grant recipients

A swimmable Charles River

On Saturday, March 25, 2017, the BSA Foundation hosted the Charles River Conservancy (CRC) for a community charrette discussing a permanent swim park in the Charles River. Over 50 people, aged four to 84, gathered at BSA Space to discuss swimming, playing, and living alongside the Charles River.

This charrette was the first of two that the CRC will be hosting in the spring of 2017 to provide an ongoing community input process for the swim park. According to the Conservancy’s website:

"Cities around the world—New York City, London, Berlin, and Melbourne—are seeking to reclaim their urban rivers for swimming. In the midst of this race to be the world’s first city to return swimming to formerly polluted river waters, Boston has a unique and enviable edge: the Charles, the cleanest urban river in America. After hundreds of millions of dollars of public investment, and decades of work, the Charles is clean enough to swim most days of the summer."

The next step in realizing the goal of a swimmable Charles is to design and build a swim facility or swim park. Through these charrettes, the Charles River Conservancy is collecting feedback from local residents about how they currently use and wish to use the parklands and river.

Participants were seated at one of five topic tables: fun, equity, accessibility, beauty, or safety. All tables had lively discussions for over an hour before presenting their main ideas back to the larger group.

The second charrette will take place in Cambridge on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Learn more about the Swim Park project at

The BSA Foundation supports community-based programs in Massachusetts related to the built environment. The Charles River Conservancy is a 2016 small grant recipient of the BSA Foundation.

Update: The BSA Placemaking Network met in September 2017 to host a panel further discussing the project. Keep up to date on the progress at

View images below. 

Photos courtesy of Elliya Cutler.

To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. Meet with Foundation leaders and volunteers to learn broadly about the Foundation’s work and its impact. Foundation Conversation meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.