Salisbury author focuses on Spectacle Island cleanup

·2 min read

Sep. 15—SALISBURY — A local first-time author will sign copies of her new book during this weekend's Salisbury Days celebration.

Donna Keefe, a Salisbury resident for three years, self-published "Specs of Spectacle Island: A Story of an Island From Treasure to Treasure" for young readers.

The story is told from the perspective of a chipmunk/gopher mix called a "chipmunkel" named Specs who starts off living on Boston Harbor's Spectacle Island in the early 1990s.

Spectacle Island served as a trash dump for Boston from 1921 until the early 1990s.

"The island was essentially heaps of trash," Keefe said. "It would occasionally go up in flames and it stunk. It was oozing toxins into Boston Harbor. It has also been said that a bulldozer once sunk into the heaps of trash and was never found."

The historic Big Dig construction project resurfaced the island with excavated dirt and clay. The island was capped and eventually built back up. But the initial change of habitat in the early 1990s prompts Specs to leave home.

"He's a little country boy character who makes his way to Boston and becomes a little bit lost in the big city," Keefe said.

Along the way, Specs makes friends with some mud rats living in the subways in Boston who tell him about the Big Dig and all the dirt being shipped to an island in the harbor.

Spectacle Island was eventually opened as a state and national park in 2006, which prompts Specs to return home, but he finds it no longer resembles the place he left.

"It's not a dump with heaping trash anymore, it is a beautiful island and park," Keefe said. "All of the animals are living back, above ground and are happy. There are also other animals living there now."

The new author moved to town from Cambridge and said she was very familiar with the history of Boston and the Big Dig.

Keefe added that she wanted to offer insight on the historic Big Dig construction project that underpinned the island's transformation as well as Boston Harbor's cleanup.

"Specs of Spectacle Island: A Story of an Island From Treasure to Treasure" is illustrated by Amber Luecke. Keefe will sign copies of the book at the Salisbury DaysFair in the Square on Sunday.

For more information on Salisbury Days, go to:

Donna Keefe's website:

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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