One of the mandates of the park's enabling legislation is to improve access to the Boston Harbor Islands using public water transportation. The Partnership cooperates with the many agencies working to provide greater access to the harbor for the public.
In general, our goal is to offer access to the islands from many locations on the mainland. The level of services offered at these locations will vary, based on visitor demand and the ability of the market to respond. Some departure points will provide a level of service that qualifies them to be designated as official gateways and included in the Mainland Gateway park management areas by the Partnership. Others will feed visitors to the official gateways or, in some cases, directly to the islands. The park general management plan contains development guidelines that apply to all park infrastructure. Additional guidance is provided in the plan for mainland gateways (see "Gateway Criteria" below).
Mainland gateways are, by definition, ferry departure points with attendant information, orientation, and services for park visitors. The Partnership reviews requests for new gateways using established criteria: A public process assures community input. The Partnership ensures that each official gateway is a scheduled stop on the park water transportation system; that it is promoted as a departure point or "entrance" for the national park area; and that there is park orientation and interpretation for visitors. Facilities are developed in collaboration with the facility owners. In exchange, the official gateway operators enter into agreements that provide revenue to the park through the Island Alliance (see "Doing Business With the Park").
Long Wharf has served as the Boston departure point for island ferries for many years. Two members of the Partnership—National Park and Island Alliance—are taking the lead to develop a bona fide Long Wharf gateway, known as the Harbor Park Pavilion.