UPDATED, April 19: After 18 months of design, community outreach and fund-raising, shovels are about to go into the ground at Wellington Park, off Grove Street. The Mystic River Watershed Association(MyRWA) and town planning initially undertook this work to improve this underused park, address ecological concerns and uncover a hidden but historically significant waterway.
As the water source for at least eight mill sites and mill ponds during the 17th through 19th centuries, Mill Brook is a significant part of Arlington’s cultural landscape and a link to its industrial past. Much of the brook is now channelized, with segments running through underground culverts and only limited views to the exposed sections of the waterway.
Portions of the brook are subject to regular flooding, largely because so much of it is constricted in narrow man-made channels. Wellington Park, along 425 linear feet of the brook, faces these challenges yet offers a unique opportunity for transformation.
Just in time for summer, there will be a new elevated boardwalk along Mill Brook, with additional plantings that provide aesthetic and ecological value. Nearly a half-acre of thick invasive species and a deteriorating chain-link fence will be replaced with wetland plants and a reinforced edge to absorb flood waters during rain events.
These physical improvements are phase I of a larger park-revitalization vision and are funded by the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program.
Design and engineering services were led by Weston & Sampson.
“Our hope is that as this section of Mill Brook is opened up, people can begin to visualize the impact that future improvements can have on the entire 2.7-mile corridor between the Arlington Reservoir and Mystic Lakes,” says Amber Christoffersen, Greenways director, in a news release. “This has the potential to be a linear park that provides access to nature and a slower-paced, recreational trail for community members.”
The Town of Arlington, as part of their Eco-Week, will host a tour of the park just before construction begins. This free event will meet at the Grove Street entrance of Wellington Park on Tuesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. Meet your neighbors and learn more about other resilience-building efforts in Town and the newly updated Mill Brook Corridor Report.
The MyRWA works to improve the lives of the more than half million residents of Mystic River communities through its efforts to protect and restore water quality, natural habitat and open space throughout the 76 square mile watershed. For more information, see MysticRiver.org.
The Mystic Greenways Initiative seeks to connect 25 miles of paths, improve hundreds of acres of parkland and engage thousands of community members from the Mystic Lakes to the Boston Harbor.
This project is co-managed by the town and the Mystic River Watershed Association. RAE Contracting has been selected as the construction contractor.
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The Wellington Park and Mill Brook project has about $370,000 of construction funding to increase flood-storage capacity, open up the brook for passive recreation, and create an ADA-compliant and permeable pathway and overlook through the park. These physical improvements are only phase I of a larger park revitalization vision.
Funding sources for this project include the Community Preservation Act and the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Action Grant. The town successfully applied for, and received, the grant in 2018.
The planning process identified flooding in the Mill Brook Corridor, which has caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and other properties in the brook’s vicinity, as a significant concern. Combining the MVP funds with CPA funds enables the Town to leverage funds in an effective manner to improve Wellington Park.
Work will begin in late April, during which the park (not including the tennis courts) will be closed to the public. The work will be completed by the end of June.
For all other information about the project, contact Emily Sullivan at 781-316-3012 or esullivan at town.arlington.ma.us.
Thumbnail image: A 1977 study for the Arlington Conservation Commission created by then-Tufts
University student Miriam (Mia) Guttfreund de Lehrer. This design led to a general plan for developing a Mill Brook Linear Park, in response to the pocket park format.