Happy New Year!   3 comments

An amazing amount of work is necessary to manage Thompson Island, an island operation that supported nearly 28,000 visitors in 2011. Buildings and infrastructure spanning two centuries, antiquated electrical and water systems, 204 acres of grounds and trails, motor vessels to ferry passengers back and forth, motorized chippers, tractors and carts, food storage and preparation facilities, campsite shelters and sailing vessels all need to be continuously inspected, repaired and maintained at high-levels of functionality. What’s more, everything that is used or consumed on the island must come over on the ferry in a constant “food-on, garbage-off” system!

It could not be done without the yeomen’s job performed by the Operations department. To honor all this hard work, I’ve asked Director of Operations, Bill Dowd, to be this month’s guest blogger. Please read on to see a glimpse of his “state of the island.” On behalf of the entire organization, I’d like to thank our Operations colleagues for all they do. – Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

Thursday, November 10, 2011
By: Bill Dowd, Director of Operations

The last 85 6th grade students from the Needham High Rock School have departed and that means we finally have a second to take a deep breath. I can now take this opportunity to share where we stand, what we’ve done, and where we’re heading because there is no “offseason” for island operations.

Members of the Operations, Events, Kitchen and Programs staff enjoy 2011's final hot meal together.

We had our final hot meal of the 2011 season on November 4th. Those of us staying to wrap things up and start the winter season enjoyed the last of Chef Richie Deas’ leftovers.

We completed this season in great stead as all of the good work done last year stood up to the wear and tear of 28,000 visitors in 2011. Improvements made over the season included the renewal of rest rooms in the Hughes Classroom building, hot water heaters in Hughes and the Gardner Classroom building, new floor coverings and equipment in the Adams guesthouse bathrooms.

Through a grant from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, the gymnasium roof was repaired and a covering installed that should last 15 years. This winter we will complete the gym project by repairing the small area of the parquet floor damaged by earlier rainwater.

The kitchen made it through once again without incident, directly attributable to the preventative maintenance program.

Based upon the quadrupling of the Summer Connections program and the resulting increase in daily diners, we conducted a study of our freezer and walk-in capacities. The results led to our rental of a wheeled storage freezer for the duration of the summer. This solution proved successful and will be repeated next year.

We conducted some repair work on the grill units used at the event sites and more will be conducted in the offseason. In addition, I am implementing a grill replacement program as most are 10-year-old units and have done their duty.

Due to Hurricane Irene, our biggest loss this year was the 40 x 60 foot pavilion tent and brand new canopy used at the large event site. The hurricane simply lifted it up, tossed it aside and smashed it to pieces. We immediately rented a similar unit that was installed within six days and resulted in no lost revenue. We are presently working through the insurance process for the replacement.

A collaboration between the operations staff, youth jobs program students from Green Corps and Island Ambassadors, and three groups of corporate volunteers (spearheaded by the leadership of a large group from IBM) helped to create the new outdoor Family Learning Center which was opened at the original farm house site in early August.

The Ambassadors also created the island’s first sculpture debuting “Hands” representing the hands-on learning that has occurred on Thompson Island for more than 175 years. The garden, decks, and climbing area, as well as a few flourishes such as decorative flowering trees, form the basis of a continuing project that will grow each year.

This fall we completed repair work and completely painted all of the outbuildings on the island including the sheds for the Alpine Tower and Low Ropes areas, as well as the events and programs storage sheds in the Hollow. We also managed to get a coat of paint on the staff housing in the Duplex, utilizing another gang of corporate volunteers.

The re-vegetation plan began this summer by planting 18 oak, four apple, three pear trees, and 40 hemlock shrubs. The process will create shaded areas and replace those trees that have been damaged or are in danger of toppling from old age.

This year we were also inspected by the National Park Service to ensure our compliance with the Conservation Restriction. We passed with flying colors and over the winter will improve the visual cues that mark the boundaries between conservation and non-conservation land to better determine the lines of demarcation when everything is in bloom.

Corporate volunteers using Chipper

The new chipping machine was used to full advantage on all of the accumulated brush from myriad trail and sumac clearing projects, as well as the debris from Hurricane Irene, gales and the recent snowstorm. The chips have been used to form the bed of the new Family Learning Center and four solid inches were laid down as bedding material for our well worn low ropes challenge course area. The chips also augmented the beach sand we used in the refurbishment of Highland Road, the new section of the 4K Trail Run course to accommodate the greater number of runners. The 780 runners and celebrity host Bill Rodgers said it was a great change for the race.

After a yearlong search we are welcoming a new member to our Operations Team: Tom Taylor is the new Manager, Facilities and Grounds. Tom has been part of the TIOBEC family for the past three years working both for the events department and in the programs department as an instructor with Green Corps and Connections. Prior to that he spent five years as Project Manager and Project Estimator for Suffolk Construction. His attention to detail and his understanding of our clients will make him a great addition to the operations department and as a liaison to other departments.

MVOB & Queen Elizabeth II as seen in the Boston Globe, September 2011

The waterfront also fared well this summer. The Motor Vessel Outward Bound (MVOB) carried more people, traversed more miles, and visited more islands than any other year in my tenure. In addition, Captain Nate Puritz utilized every vessel in the harbor, no matter how big or small, to create a seamless “bridge to the islands” for the students we serve. The Motor Vessel Invictus is now in Gloucester having gearing repairs and she will return in a week to serve as our winter transport.

This year we reassessed stability for the MVOB and pulling boats due to changes in allowable weights for passengers. The US Coast Guard raised the weight from the original design of 165 lbs per passenger to 185 lbs per passenger. The MVOB was designed at 165lbs and with the new weight requirements in place, it will reduce our passenger capacity from 149 to 132, a fairly substantial loss.

Based upon the new weight guidelines and the increased traffic of Connections students, the need for a second boat (or another boat) is becoming readily apparent. During the winter we will negotiate the purchase of a new float to replace our current float, which has been on loan from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The DCR is re-appropriating this float for use elsewhere in the Harbor Islands.

Winter projects include painting the dorms, and quite a bit of plumbing and porcelain work will bring long forgotten bathrooms back online, and office space will be refreshed. In addition, the dormant teacher’s lounge in the Hughes classroom building will be transformed into another classroom for Summer Connections to accommodate continued expansion of the program. Outside work will continue as weather permits, and some trees must come down and the chipper will be in full swing.

All in all it will be a busy winter for Operations and, as we have less than 100 working days until we reopen, I had better wrap this up and get back to work!


3 responses to “Happy New Year!

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  1. This is an impressive amount of work and is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our island staff! I enjoyed the privilege of working alongside you this summer to maintain our island. Best of luck with the “100 days of work” over the winter. I can’t wait to be back on the island in the spring of 2012!

    Thank you for all that you do to make Thompson Island so wonderful,

  2. Bill you and your team never cease to amaze me. I miss you all and look forward to visiting you all sometime soon.

  3. Wow, that must have been a lot of work. I need to come visit that place next summer!

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