Swim Park


Rendering of the Swim Park. Image courtesy of Stantec, with support from Common Impact.

Cities around the world—New York, 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.

One simple step remains: a place to get in. The goal of the Swim Park Project is to build a safe, fun, and accessible permanent swimming facility in the Charles River to be enjoyed by everyone. This ‘swim-park’ would be conveniently located within North Point Park, along the border of Cambridge and Boston.


It is Feasible!

tpbbwhv5ifbutzbqgcwgWith a partnership grant from Common Impact, a team of volunteer professionals from Stantec conducted a study for the Charles River Conservancy (CRC) exploring the feasibility of a permanent swimming facility in the Charles River at North Point Park. In order to evaluate the feasibility of such a site, Stantec compiled a team of volunteers, drawing on expertise from landscape architecture, civil engineering, environmental science, and much more. Their work determined that given further study and due diligence, a permanent swimming area is indeed feasible!

A full electronic copy of the feasibility study is available here. If you’d like a printed copy, please email crc@thecharles.org to learn more.

A Brief History of Swimming in the Charles River

Since settlement – There were swimming beaches and bathhouses up and down the river, including on the Esplanade, off the Harvard Bridge and at Magazine Beach
Mid-1950s – A new awareness of pollution’s impact on public health caused Charles River beaches to close; cities built private swimming pools

1972 – The federal Clean Water Act mandated treatment for all municipal sewer systems
1985- Mass Water Resource Authority (MWRA) founded
1995 – The U.S. EPA began the Charles River Initiative under Region I EPA Administrator and CRC Advisory Board member John DeVillars
1996- Governor Weld dives into the Charles
Late 1990s – Regulatory and legal action reduced the level of combined sewer overflows into the river by 99.5% from 1980s levels

2004 – The Conservancy launched the Swimmable Charles Initiative (today the Swim Park Project)
2007 – The Charles River Swimming Club hosts the first annual One Mile Swim Race
2009 – The Conservancy successfully advocates for legislation to have a Governor appointed Special Commission on Water Quality and Swimming
2013 – The Conservancy hosts the first Charles River Community Swim in over 50 years!



A banner year for the Swim Park Project, including:ooh9wtxwpaoeneezpcln

  • The release of the feasibility study generated by a partnership with Stantec
  • Another successful swim: 278 jumped in with several hundred more on the waitlist. Since 2013, over 1,200 people have swum with the Conservancy in the Charles.
  • A front page feature in the Boston Globe and media coverage on dozens of other media outlets.
  • A successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which raised over $25,600 and had 299 backers
  • The EPA gave the Charles River a B+ grade for water quality, a 5-year trend where the Charles has consistently received an A- or B+

Next Steps

Professional advice – We will seek ongoing consulting advice from legal, environmental, engineering and design professionals.

Continued testing – In collaboration with NEU and thanks to a generous donor, the Conservancy is offering a full scholarship for a two-year Masters In Engineering or Environmental Sciences. As a Graduate Research Assistant, this student will perform daily water quality monitoring and assessment during the summer for two years.

crc-citysplash-web-export-07142015-110Community Outreach – We will meet with key members of the swim community, including Masters Swimming groups, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, Triathalon training groups, and swim-park neighbors

Charrettes – With support from the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Foundation, the Conservancy held two public planning charrettes in early spring 2017. We held our first charrette on Saturday, March 25th at the BSA Space and our second charrette on Wednesday, May 17th at the Microsoft NERD Center. For details about the ideas generated at the charrettes, please visit our charrettes page.

Operations analysis- The nonprofit Community Consulting Teams (CCT) has agreed to conduct an operations analysis for the Swim Park. CCT “amplifies the impact of Boston-area nonprofits through pro bono management consulting projects performed by teams of experienced MBAs from top-tier business schools”. Our team of ten CCT consultants expect to provide us with operating and financial models to ensure the long term sustainability of the Swim Park by early summer 2017.

More Swims – Stay tuned for news about our 2017 swim!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to learn more!


Why North Point Park?

For many years, North Point Park was a wasteland used for industrial purposes and as a trash transfer station, but mitigation for the “Big Dig” project led to new commercial, residential, and open space development in the area, including North Point Park and the Lynch Family Skatepark (developed by the CRC). Because of its generous lawn spaces, direct access to the river, nearby connections to the MBTA, EF’s Lingo restaurant, several playgrounds and proximity to several Hubway bike rental stations, North Point Park is quickly becoming a destination, making it an ideal location for a permanent swimming area on the Charles.



Map of the Swim Park’s location. See Site B.


Alternate view of the Swim Park. Image courtesy of Stantec, with support from Common Impact.

For more information about the Swim Park Project generally, please contact Vanessa Nason at 617-300-8162 or vnason@thecharles.org.

To ask a question about the summer swim event or the charrettes, please contact Rebecca Hoffman at 617-300-8171 or rhoffman@thecharles.org.

For press and sponsorship inquiries, please contact Director of Development and Communications, SJ Port at 617.300.8172 or sjport@thecharles.org.

To support progress towards a permanent Swim Park in the Charles, please give to the Swim Park Project