Plan to transform Padanaram Harbor nearing completion

Nov 27, 2018

A plan to transform Padanaram Harbor and the surrounding area with cleaner water, more public access, and historical and cultural activities is nearing completion.

Called the Padanaram Harbor Management Plan, it has been in the works for the past year through a grant-funded collaboration between UMass Boston, the Town of Dartmouth, and a volunteer committee established to weigh in on the future of the water, village, and town.

After the committee spent the summer hammering away at hundreds of ideas, the full plan will be posted on the town’s website for public review in the coming weeks.

“We are getting close to the end,” said Kristin Uiterwyk from the Urban Harbors Institute of UMass Boston.

It outlines 14 key areas to improve various aspects of the harbor, village, and areas surrounding the harbor, with various recommendations which will be up to various town and outside agencies, departments, and committees to implement if it is accepted by the town.

It covers everything from addressing the realities of climate change by making the harbor more resilient to flooding and facilitating evacuations if need be, to transportation and parking in the village.

“Water quality is going to be one of the big issues that gets addressed here,” said Steve Bliven from the Urban Harbors Institute.

Bliven explained the plan will tie into the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s recent proposal to reduce harmful contamination of waterways by between 30 and 35 percent. Recommendations include identifying major sources of pollution into the harbor’s watershed, some of which are still unclear, through enhanced monitoring programs.

Public access to the waterfront was a major point residents raised during a public brainstorming session last year. 

“It’s getting people from shore to the boats, getting people from the boats to the shore, getting people moving along the shore, scenic and visual access, and the always popular question of parking,” Bliven said.

In addition to inventorying and improving signage to current public access points, adding a sidewalk to the water side of Smith Neck Road for safer access to the water, and making the Padanaram Harborwalk along the village a reality are also included.

More cultural and historical opportunities are also included. The Historical Commission and various other entities could work together to begin walking tours, bicycle tours, and historical events.

“There is a historic and cultural basis for the harbor, and particularly in Padanaram Village there are major undisturbed archeological sites on the west side of the harbor,” Bliven noted.

With all the proposed changes, there are also efforts to preserve and enhance the harbor’s commercial and recreational  operations, including commercial marinas and commercial and recreational fishing.

Currently, between 15 and 20 different groups have some level of jurisdiction over the harbor, and communication is sometimes not coordinated. A central coordinator should be established, and emergency response can be improved by designating who is in charge in various situations which can happen on the water and on shore.

A public meeting will be held in January to give residents an opportunity to weigh in and recommend changes, although a date has not yet been set. The goal is to have the final plan ready to submit to the Planning Board – which is running the process – for approval in February, and gain approval from the Select Board in March.

If approved, it will be up to the town and its various boards, commissions, departments, and outside agencies to implement the various parts of the plan.

For more information, visit the town website,