Mystic River Reservation Master Plan Update, June 18, 2015 –
A Report from DCR’s Dan Driscoll – by Ivey St. John-Charlestown Waterfront Coalition
In 2009, the Department of Conservation and Recreation published a conceptual Master Plan for the renovation and improvement in the Mystic River Reservation, defining the plan area as from Belmont’s and Arlington’s Alewife Brook along the Mystic Valley Parkway, to Medford & Somerville, to the Alford Street Bridge in Charlestown.
The area includes both sides of the Mystic and the Malden River, but does not include Mary O’Malley Park in Chelsea at the base of the Admiral’s Hill development. In the six years since publication, some exciting steps have been taken despite budget cutbacks.
Alewife Brook Area:
The Minutemen bike and pedestrian pathway from the Alewife T Station along the Alewife Brook section of the Mystic has been completed, thanks to shovel ready construction drawings and the 2009 Stimulus Program. The federal stimulus funds regulations drove significant ecological improvements along the trail. In addition, the Department of Transportation has supported the trail by including new lighting,
and pedestrian and bike improvements to the bridge at the confluence of the Mystic River and Alewife Brook.
Pathway along Mystic Valley Parkway:
Dan reported that he needs $250,000 to $300,000 to do detailed design and construction drawings for pathways along the Mystic, and to create a multi-use path welcoming to the disabled.
In addition, he estimates up to $1 million is needed annually to keep all pathways in the Reservation in good shape. In today’s frugal environment, that goal does not yet seem achievable.
Auburn Street Bridge to Craddock Dam:
This area is a little hard to define. Some who travel Rt. 16 north and then east regularly will be familiar with the U-Haul Garage and parking lot, followed by the MBTA Commuter Rail Bridge. The next crossing into Arlington is the Auburn Street Bridge. The Craddock Dam supports the roadway into Medford Square from Rt. 16/Mystic Valley Parkway and Mystic Avenue.
In this area, the City of Medford has restored the pathways, moved the parking area near the Condon Shell back from the river, and built canoe access. Historic markers note the Middlesex Canal and Medford waterfront history of constructing clipper ships. Further improvements await significant new funds to take down the Condon Shell and replace it with a disabled access shell and repaired and reconstructed bike lanes. Medford has set aside $450,000 to develop a master plan for the area, including expanded bike lanes. The City expects to hold a public meeting on that plan in September.
Craddock Dam to Rt. 28 Bridge:
This area is largely taken up the McDonald Park, a DCR Park that was poorly designed at its inception. The Mystic River Watershed Association and local businesses and residents are forming a advocacy group to press for significant improvements to the park. It is requires major reconstruction and will need significant financial support. Pathways need to be redesigned, the State Police Station should be moved, and invasive species cut back and controlled.
East of the Rt. 28 Bridge, the Mystic shore and park (Baxter Park) along Assembly Row has been beautifully reconstructed and improved by Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT). Members are encouraged to stroll the park when visiting Assembly Row stores.
This pathway stretches from the Rt. 28 Bridge at Station Landing along the north edge of the Mystic, under the Orange Line Bridge, and will ultimately be open all the way to the Wellington T Station just south of the Rt. 16 Bridge over the Malden River. The Rt. 16 Bridge is slated for reconstruction, and will have two pedestrian/bike underpasses on each side of the Malden River.
This area is extraordinarily beautiful, and abuts the Tufts Boathouse and John Preotle’s River’s Edge mixed use development. The Malden River, despite its badly contaminated sediment, is a lovely pastoral sight, and worth a visit.
Draw 7 Park to Alford Street Bridge:
This area includes the drafted but still not certified plan to build a pathway from Draw 7 Park in Somerville to Rt. 99/Alford Street along the edge of the Mystic River. Federal Realty Investment Trust has pledged $500,000 for use to develop Draw 7 Park. There is an effort being made to connect Draw 7 and Assembly Row by multi-use path to Sullivan Square through the MBTA yard downstream from Draw 7. To address a failing headwall on the edge of this proposed path, the MBTA has received a large federal grant with which it can complete the required structural improvements.
Dan and the MBTA have been brainstorming ideas for the repair of this collapsing Mystic edge bulkhead in order to stabilize it to allow the pathway connection between Draw 7 and Alford Street. Dan believes the T will have to build out into the river some in order to achieve retaining wall stability. Here, there may be an opportunity for a much wider path then originally planned.
An additional note, Dan has approached the Wynn team about a grant of $8 to $10 million to fund construction of a pedestrian/bike bridge over the Mystic just above the Amelia Earhart Dam. If Dan is successful in coaxing that grant out of Wynn, he reports that with the reconstruction of the MBTA bulkhead pathway adjacent to Alford Street, a complete circle will be open so that bikers can travel in a circle of connecting pathways around the Charles and Mystic Rivers.