Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



The Weir River Estuary Park Open Space and Public Access Inventory is a planning document designed to provide collective information on public open space and water access opportunities around the Weir River Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). It catalogs what is known about all undeveloped lands and accessways around the estuary and draws from existing reports and plans, interviews with government officials, and comments conveyed during a day-long public visioning workshop in May 2003. The inventory is intended as a support document to augment existing open space plans, master plans, and harbor management plans in Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset — the communities that share the estuary and the ACEC and to unify common elements of these plans to assist local and state planning efforts around the estuary.

The central estuarine habitats (approximately 922 acres) were designated in 1986 as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) (formerly the Department of Environmental Management (DEM)) administers the ACEC Program for the Secretary and provided funds and technical support for the visioning workshop and report. Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management (CZM) staff also provide ongoing support to this ACEC, as does the Land Acquisition staff of DCR (formerly Metropolitan District Commission (MDC)).

There are a number of reasons why it is important to examine open space and public access around the estuary. First, all three communities have prepared various plans that address these topics to some degree. But these sources have not been formally combined to depict what is known about the arrangement and extent of open spaces and accessways exclusively around the estuary. Second, with almost 17 miles of shoreline, the Weir River estuary is one of the South Shore’s most valuable natural resources, but only a small percentage of this shore can be considered permanently protected open space, with much of it at risk of being developed in a manner that may cause harm to many environmental and aesthetic values that are both rare and fragile. Finally, this inventory will provide a planning tool for the municipalities, open space committees, and community stewardship groups by informing local residents about what land is already accessible and what land might be worthy of protecting or acquiring. To this end, the information presented in this report will form a base from which the communities can work towards the common goals of preserving scenic beauty and local character, providing better access to the estuary, and improving awareness of the estuary’s natural and recreational resources.


Prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (formerly the Department of Environmental Management).


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