The Clippership Connector project in Medford passed a crucial step in the process this past week.
During its meeting on Wednesday night, the Medford Conservation Commission unanimously voted to allow a half-mile pathway along the Mystic River through a certain portion of the city, and the Commission said the project won’t negatively affect the environment, given some conditions.
The Conservation Commission first held a public hearing last week with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and residents from the community to discuss the connecting path from Clippership Drive in Medford Square to Riverbend Park behind the Andrews and McGylnn middle schools, and the Commission decided to continued the hearing this past Wednesday night.
“Some of the folks who live along the pathway expressed concern about its effect on the shoreline and native habitats,” said Medford Associate Environmental Agent Denis MacDougall. “They provided a package of information for the Commission to review. There were other folks who spoke up in support of the path.”
Before the meeting this past Wednesday night, the Conservation Commission walked along the path to examine the area, the shoreline and native habitats in that stretch of land by the water.
“Tonight was a chance for us to see the site and gain a better understanding of the conditions there, and now we need to deliberate and ask whatever questions we have of DCR,” said Acting Chair of the Conservation Commission Heidi Davis.
The Commission then continued its discussion from last week, and mentioned its concern regarding the plants and environment in that area.
After much discussion and deliberations about sinkholes, slopes, and erosion on the path, the Conservation Commission unanimously passed a motion to allow the pathway by the river with a certain order of conditions, such as making sure DCR monitors the planting of shrubs in the woodland area, has a stabilization plan to maintain the area by the water and plants any trees it removes.
“Mayor [Stephanie] Burke and I are both very excited to see this project go forward,” said Medford Director of Energy and Environment Alicia Hunt said. “It’s something we have been working with residents for four or five years on now.”
The Clippership Connector is called the “missing link” because it allows people to continue to walk or bike along the pathway by the Mystic River without an interrupted spot.
“It came up as a resident initiative interested in completing this path along the Mystic River,” explained Hunt.
Hunt said DCR wants all of the trails along the river connected so people can walk and bike by the water along all the different communities. In Medford, there is currently a half-mile stretch from Medford Square to Medford middle schools where you need to walk away from the river to continue walking, and Hunt said it is difficult to find your way back to the path.
Hunt said the state owns a lot of property in the area, and there isn’t path in a few areas where it is privately owned.
“It’s a state project to create this multi-use trail,” Hunt said. “I was working with [DCR] to make sure they are reaching out to residents, are connecting with residents.”
The proposed pathway is a 8 to 12 foot paved surface with a wooden platform in a few spots. DCR will have to remove some vegetation from the pathway, and it has set aside $200,000 for new plantings to “provide both habitats for animals and shade and privacy for folks along the pathway.”
Hunt made it clear that everyone wants the Clippership Connector, it’s just a matter of the location.
“There is no controversy about creating this multi-use trail,” she emphasized. “There is controversy about the exact location of the trail.”
A stretch of the pathway is fairly close to people’s homes, and some residents are concerned.
“They vehemently said, ‘We don’t think it should go on this land,”’ Hunt said. ‘“We think it should go along the road in this area. It should go in front of our houses, not behind our houses.’ They expressed they were very concerned about the wildlife and the disruption of the wildlife.”
DCR said it will restore the area, support the diverse wildlife and provide enough plantings. Work on the project may begin in the fall and be completed in 2020.
“They felt everyone got to speak [one week ago], and I would say they really let anybody speak who wanted to,” Hunt said. “They will have another public meeting, probably in May or early June, and then have final engineering designs, put project up to bid and start late summer, early fall.”