By: Seth Daniel
From a beach to a bicycle path, Mystic River Watershed Council’s (MyRWA) ongoing effort to re-envision the Charlestown waterfront has grown in its momentum and is putting forth some unique ideas.
That was on display recently at a public meeting in the Harvard-Kent School where they unveiled the ideas and design ideas for Charlestown’s Mystic River corridor – ideas that many said were eye-opening, practical and exciting.
Amber Christoffersen, of MyRWA, said the ideas offered up at the meeting on Jan. 30 were in response to the kick-off meeting held last summer on the Schrafft’s docks, as well as online surveys done afterward.
“When we started this work a little over a year ago, some of the things we heard from Charlestown was people were surprised the Mystic River has a harborwalk and that it was part of Charlestown,” she said. “There is a real disconnect…Basically, this whole area is going to transform in the five to 10 years and we’re excited to be helping people turn more to the waterfront…It’s a great waterfront, but it stops in places and there are barriers.”
Part of the process with MyRWA is to see how those barriers can be removed, altered or worked around.
One of the ideas brought up was to bring back the small beach, once known as Dewey Beach, along the Mystic. While most would think that was crazy talk, and that the water is dirty, Christoffersen said water quality is good, and it is a possibility.
“It is a visionary idea that should be explored,” she said. “From a water quality perspective, it gets an ‘A-minus’ rating so it is swimable. There are issues with industry and the popular perspective tends to be that the Mystic is dirty and the truth is that it is not. Further up, there are water quality issues, but down here we have the tides washing in and out.”
The idea of a beach on the Mystic was just one open door into the possibilities the waterfront holds that many might not have ever considered.
One of the most practical ideas is a Rail to Trail concept that would include a bike and pedestrian path along the waterfront on what is now a MassPort rail right-of-way.
“We’ve been pushing MassPort on that,” she said. “Our strategy is to develop that right of way that would be used for a path and still also be returned to use for the railroad in the future…What we are seeing is with so much more density from development, there needs to be a provision of more open space and more walking and biking options.”
Matthew Donovan was right down the line with that idea.
As a worker who bikes every day from the Navy Yard to Deer Island, he said getting a direct pathway to Alford Street would be an amazing change for his safety and time.
“I support the idea of a path for multiple reasons – for work transportation, for exhiliaration, for education and for recreation,” he said, noting that the most important part of the plan to him is the flood protection that would come with amenities like a bike path.
“In our recent time, we saw the Aquarium train station flooded,” he said. “It’s here and coming soon to the Navy Yard if we don’t do something.”
Nancy Krepelka said she would use a shared-use path if it were developed along the waterfront.
“It’s nice to see the ideas we’ve had become more of a reality,” she said. “I think some of the ideas for the open space are new and exciting. I would probably go for a walk on the path if they had it.”
Some of the ideas put together over the past several months by Stoss Landscape Urbanism include big ideas for the Little Mystic Channel, which Christoffersen said they would be focusing on in the coming months as community meetings begin to take place.
According to some drawings, they have staked out an idea for a floating pool in the channel, an improved Barry Playground, a dog park under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, a ferry stop, a temporary event installation along the Channel and a landscaped, tree-lined Terminal/Medford Street corridor.