The Friends have earned the respect of environmental agencies and the public for their work in protecting and promoting recreational use of the islands. Founded in 1979 by Suzanne Gall Marsh, the organization is celebrating its 28th year of service to the Islands.
During these years the Friends volunteers have provided thousands of hours of service assisting park visitors and managers. They greet and guide visitors, help to maintain island structures and environmental sites, work with youth through specialized programming and work on boat cruises that introduce passengers to the islands of the park. They are ardent advocates promoting the park in the political arena and the larger community. Through these efforts they help ensure that visitors to Boston Harbor can enjoy one of America's unique places, a park of natural beauty just a short boat ride from the city's edge.
In recent years the excellence of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands has been recognized by state, local and national organizations. FBHI was recognized by the National Park Service as an outstanding volunteer program in 2002 when the organization received the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service
Named for a former National Park Service director who was instrumental in bringing volunteers into the service of the National Parks, the Hartzog award honored the Friends volunteers as the country's most vibrant and dedicated Volunteers-in-Parks Program.
The Friends also received the President's award from the National Association of State Park Directors. The (NASPD) award is given annually to a nominee who has demonstrated a commitment to furthering the mission of a host state park agency. In their nominating letter, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, (now merged with the former Metropolitan District Commission to create the current Department of Conservation and Recreation) said "We, and other partners in the Boston Harbor Islands park partnership are lucky to be able to rely on an independent, adaptable and well-managed volunteer program".