Swim Park Project


Artistic rendering by Stantec.


Our Vision:
To build a safe, fun, and accessible seasonal swimming facility in the Charles River to be enjoyed by everyone.

Swimming in the Charles:
The Charles River was commonly used for swimming until the 1950’s when beaches were shut down due to a new awareness of health risks following years of industrial activity along the river. The polluted Charles River earned its reputation as “that dirty water.”

In 1995, the EPA launched the Charles River Initiative in an effort to make the river both “swimmable and fishable.” During the first year of the initiative, the EPA gave the Charles an abysmal “D” grade. The initiative launched many successful cleanup efforts which have dramatically improved water quality. One success has been the reduction of Combined Sewer Overflow Discharges into the river by 99.5%. For 2017, the Charles received an “A-minusgrade from the EPA after the river met bacterial water quality standards for boating 95% of the time and standards for swimming 72% of the time (these percentages takes into account a full year’s data, not just the swim season of May through September data).

The Conservancy wants to celebrate this environmental success story. We aim to reclaim urban swimming and bring a unique recreational opportunity to the Greater Boston community.

It’s Feasible!
With a partnership grant from Common Impact, a team of volunteer professionals from Stantec conducted a study for the Charles River Conservancy exploring the feasibility of a 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.

Location of North Point Park:

Project Accomplishments:

  • Hosted 5 consecutive years of City Splash events, state-sanctioned community one-day swims in the Charles.
  • Released a feasibility study of the proposed location at North Point Park through a partnership with Stantec.
  • Completed a professional bathymetric survey of the Charles River bottom to establish depths are adequate for swimming at North Point Park.
  • Raised $25,600 on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo with 299 backers.
  • Hosted two successful Swim Park Charrettes, engaging approximately 100 community members in public brainstorm sessions to talk about their ideas and concerns about the project.
  • Advocated for legislation to have a Governor appointed Special Commission on Water Quality and Swimming with and received funding from the Boston Foundation for staff support.
  • Received front-page features in the Boston Globe and coverage by dozens of other media sources.
  • Partnered with Tufts University to complete a comprehensive study of six urban river initiatives in the United States.
  • Secured funding for two seasons of water quality testing by a Northeastern University Masters student.

 Next Steps:

  • Professional advice: The Conservancy will seek consultation from legal, environmental, engineering and design professionals.
  • Continued testing: In collaboration with Northeastern University, the Conservancy is offering a full scholarship for a two-year Masters in Engineering or Environmental Science. As a Graduate Research Assistant, this student will perform daily water quality monitoring and assessment during the summers of 2017 and 2018.
  • Community Outreach: The Conservancy continues to meet with key members of the swim community, including Masters Swimming groups, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, and triathlon training groups. We also continue to meet with elected and appointed officials about our plans.


For press inquiries, please contact Lucy Salwen at 617.300.8171 or lsalwen@thecharles.org.

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

To support progress towards a seasonal Swim Park in the Charles, please give to the Charles River Conservancy