Advocating for access to the Malden River - a testimony

On November 17th Patrick Herron, Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association testified at the public hearing held in Everett by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA-DEP) regarding the Chapter 91 License Application for the National Grid site located along the Malden River. Below is an excerpt from Patrick Herron’s remarks:

“National Grid, as member of the Malden River community and under the jurisdiction of Chapter 91, has an obligation to open up public access along their site and contribute to the waterfront path network planned on the adjacent properties. The public process stewarded by MA-DEP represents an enormous opportunity to change the quality and elevate the status of the Malden River – to make it the jewel of communities of Everett, Malden and Medford and surrounding cities.

Chapter 91 is the Commonwealth's primary tool for protection and promotion of public use of its tidelands and other waterways – this "public trust doctrine” holds that the air, the sea and the shore belong not to any one person, but rather to the public at large. 

This site contains filled tidelands and thus falls under Chapter 91 jurisdiction - the purpose of which is preserve and protect the rights of the public, and guarantees that private uses of tidelands and waterways serve a proper public purpose. National Grid’s public access proposal does not meet the intent of Chapter 91 and thus adversely affects the benefits granted under this “public trust doctrine.”

This work is particularly important on the Malden River.  The Malden River represents the best opportunity for green space for the residents of Malden and Everett in particular. For years, this river has been walled off to the public because many commercial and industrial users found his land convenient and cheap.

Times have changed. River’s Edge was developed a decade ago and provides beautiful park space. Just downstream of the National Grid parcel, the former GE site is being redeveloped with playing fields and a connected path from the top to bottom. Just upstream of you, Combined Properties will be completing a path at 295 Commercial St. that will connect with parcels upstream to get us to the top of the Malden River. At this point, 2/3 of the waterfront path on the Malden River is complete or in progress.

These are critical investments to provide the community high quality green space – the kind of spaces that have been proven to increase physical health and psychological well-being. As a land-owner of a large amount of waterfront property, National Grid has the potential to contribute to a larger vision for a waterfront park system that connects people to the Malden River.

A seamless Riverwalk would serve thousands of surrounding residents in Medford, Malden and Everett, many of whom represent environmental justice communities. Restoring full public access to river – and creating a community asset for recreation and active transportation – will reverse some of the equity issues that these residents have faced for years.

National Grid has an obligation to do this. But it is more than that; it is a chance to be the change in this community - to build something amazing for these communities.”