People laugh at picnic tables on Boston's waterfront.

Boston Voters Value the Waterfront — And are Ready for the City to Help it to Change

Responses to a recent voter poll provide a roadmap for how to maximize the benefits of the waterfront for everyone in Boston.

A recent poll gauging Boston voters’ sentiments on waterfront issues validates two significant points: first, Boston voters agree that the 40+ miles of Boston’s waterfront are a tremendously valued public resource — from the public health benefits they bring the city, to its role as an economic driver for the region. Second, Boston voters are ready for the City to take on the types of bold changes on the waterfront — from expanded access for all communities, to additional funding for climate resilience, and new approaches to planning — that Mayor Michelle Wu championed throughout her campaign.

The poll, which was commissioned by the Coalition for a Resilient and Inclusive Waterfront and conducted by MassInc Polling Group, surveyed 622 registered voters in Boston from November 8 to November 15. The responses reinforce the critical work being done by the Boston Waterfront Partners, and help build an exciting roadmap for how organizations on the waterfront, advocates, and community members can work together with the new Wu Administration to maximize the benefits the waterfront provides to everyone in Boston.

A number of its findings are below.

Voters value the waterfront for its contributions to the economy and to people’s health and happiness.

Voters understand the waterfront to be an important economic driver for the city — two-thirds of voters say it is “very important” the waterfront provides economic opportunities for local businesses and residents, while 55% each say it’s “very important” the waterfront promotes tourism and serves as a working port. Voters are interested in participating in a number of activities on the waterfront in the coming years, and 70% of voters call it “very important” that the waterfront “improves the public health of the city by providing open spaces for exercise and enjoyment.”

[GP] Waterfront Poll Slide 17

Voters are ready for the City to prioritize climate change on the waterfront.

Thirty-four percent of open-ended comments name flooding, sea level rise, and climate change as the top issue facing the waterfront, and two-thirds of voters say it is “very important” that the waterfront protects the city from the impacts of sea level rise. Over half of voters “strongly support” additional city government funding for climate change protections in specific neighborhoods, and 75% of voters support additional city funding for creating a set of community benefit standards for developers.

Voters hope the waterfront can be more inclusive.

Waterfront accessibility is currently largely dependent on how close you live to the harbors and rivers, and if you can afford the activities offered there. Voters who live closer to the waterfront have an easier time visiting, with 54% of folks living in Dorchester, South Boston, Charlestown, and East Boston saying they have a “very” easy time, compared to 28% for voters in Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roxbury, and 19% for voters in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury. Voters are supportive of promoting greater accessibility on the waterfront — 65% call it a “major priority” to create more affordable activities for families, and 55% support converting more land along the waterfront into parks and other public spaces.

[GP] Waterfront Poll Slide 7

Voters support the City creating a high-level position to oversee a more integrated and holistic approach to waterfront planning.

The poll showed significant support for the Mayor to appoint a cabinet-level official to focus on waterfront issues - an approach that has proven successful in other waterfront cities, including Seattle. Sixty-nine percent of voters support the creation of the new position.

[GP] Waterfront Poll Slide 9

Through the Waterfront Initiative at the Barr Foundation, our goal is to empower organizations committed to creating a more resilient, inclusive, and economically vibrant waterfront. This latest poll shows that Boston voters share that vision for the waterfront’s future, and see the City as a potentially powerful partner to get there.

View the full findings here.

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