Don't Suffolk-ate the Marsh

If you were suffering from obesity, you wouldn’t say “I’ll start eating salad — and only salad — from 2050.” If you learn your child is being slow-poisoned, you wouldn’t say “Let’s make sure we are not giving the kid any poison at all, from 2050.” While doing business as usual, it has become fashionable to call for “zero emissions” by 2050, or some such year decades away, as Governor Baker has done recently. That amounts to kicking the can down the road, instead of cutting carbon drastically starting today.

The McClellan Highway Development Company’s plan for redevelopment at Suffolk Downs does not maximize clean energy sources like geothermal and solar, which it totally could, as a from-scratch development on a 161-acre site presenting a rare opportunity. Nor is there any protective measure planned to avoid coastal squeeze (between rising seas and rising buildings) on the abutting Belle Isle Marsh, which is a wildlife habitat, recreational space for people (including future residents of Suffolk Downs), storm buffer, and carbon sink.

Currently, there is no plan (from DCR, who owns the property, but has been starved for funding by the state administration; or the City of Boston whose boundaries most of the marsh lies within) to protect the marsh from rising seas. The Suffolk Downs redevelopment project worsens the threat, and is set to be likely permitted in an upcoming BPDA board meeting.

Saltmarsh sparrow close to extinct

Biodiversity Preservation

The loss of the marsh signifies the loss of biodiversity in the region.

For instance, the long-eared and short-eared owls are endangered in Massachusetts. The loss of open grassland will only make things worse for them.

The saltmarsh sparrow is close to extinct. The loss of the marsh will ensure its extinction.

Protecting the habitat for this wildlife and retaining this stopping point for migrating birds would only be beneficial to humans.

Buildings without storm buffers at risk

Carbon-smart development

The carbon expended in building and operating this humongous development will no doubt strain the city’s carbon budget. The development, besides maximizing renewables, can compensate for carbon spewed by protecting the marsh (which is a carbon sink).

When the BU Computing Center can operate on 100% renewable energy, why can’t Suffolk Downs?

Marsh in vision – only?

Nature-based resiliency

Keeping the marsh will protect neighborhoods by bearing the brunt of storms. After all, this is the idea behind Mayor Walsh’s Resilient Harbor idea.


Nature will protect us from ourselves.