Arlington, MA, September 26, 2019—The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) applauds the extraordinary progress being made to revitalize and connect public greenways along the Mystic River and its tributaries. Since breaking ground in 2016, the Encore Boston Harbor casino has been the highest profile project on the Mystic River. What is less obvious is that many other waterfront parks and walk/bike paths involving tens of millions of dollars of new investment are also underway.
“The public’s investment in cleaning up Boston Harbor led to the transformation of Boston’s waterfront, and now it’s the Mystic River’s turn,” said Fred Laskey, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority. “I give a lot of credit to public and private landowners and to MyRWA for reconnecting people with the river. Let’s continue to make this a resource that is an asset for all 21 communities in the Mystic.”
“For the first time in a generation we have opened up our waterfront to our residents,” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “At Encore, a once-polluted hazardous waste site is now a beautiful six-acre park. Encore also built River Green, an outdoor recreational powerhouse around the corner on the Malden River. By building both passive and active recreational areas along our waterfront we are making the best use of the area and drawing a wide range of users.”
Above and beyond Encore’s investment, tens of millions of dollars in public and private investments are being dedicated to new and restored shoreline parks and paths up and down the Mystic River. This includes 2.5 miles of completed shoreline paths, five miles of additional paths in design or construction, and five shoreline parks in Arlington, Everett, Malden, Medford, and Somerville undergoing major renovations--all since 2016.
Malden River Greenway Vision
On September 25th, MIT awarded its inaugural $100,000 Leventhal Prize to the “Malden Works,” proposal to transform Malden’s Department of Public Works property into an outstanding civic waterfront space.
This prize recognizes the remarkable partnership among multiple communities and non-profits to reclaim the 3.5-mile shoreline of the once-industrial Malden River as inclusive, welcoming public open space.
“Our residents have lacked access to the Malden River for generations.” said Malden Mayor Gary Christianson. “This exciting project will build on years of community-led efforts to revitalize our waterfront and create a world-class park for all residents to enjoy.”
In 2017, MyRWA joined Friends of the Malden River and the cities of Everett, Malden and Medford in completing an award-winning Malden River Greenway vision. This in turn catalyzed a cascade of new open space investments. Encore, MassDOT and Combined Properties built nearly a mile of new and refurbished shoreline paths and boardwalks; nearly a mile of additional paths is currently in the planning stages.
“We have less than a half-mile to go to create a seamless waterfront network of paths all along the Malden River that connect to additional greenways along the Mystic,” said Amber Christoffersen, MyRWA’s Greenways Director. “It’s really remarkable both the interest by community members and the investments of partners.”
Moving commuters off overburdened roads with off-road paths
A recent MassDOT study found that four of the five worst traffic spots in the state are in the Mystic Watershed (https://bit.ly/2UfZU9i). Several recent investments aim to lessen the load by making bicycle and subway commuting a viable alternative.
In July 2019, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded the City of Medford a $200,000 design grant for a boardwalk linking MacDonald State Park to the Wellington MBTA Station. Also in the works is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge linking Somerville’s Assembly Square and the casino. The project, going through the final stages of design and permitting, will connect Somerville to the eight-mile Northern Strand Rail-Trail that ends at Lynn’s waterfront. “With north of 10,000 new jobs associated with Assembly Square and the Encore casino, daily commuters need to be able to get to work without adding to already grinding traffic,” said MyRWA’s Christoffersen. “This bridge is a key link across the Mystic for pedestrians and cyclists--and MyRWA is doing everything in our power to push these important projects forward.”
Investments in Climate Resilient Parks
In June, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Katie Theoharides toured Arlington’s Wellington Park, where the first capital grant from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program helped pay for green infrastructure to help manage stormwater flooding along Mill Brook and create a shoreline boardwalk.
“Arlington was pleased to receive the first-ever capital grant from the State MVP program to do this project,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “MVP does a great job of supporting multiple-benefit projects like this one that beautify our town while helping us prevent flood damage.” MyRWA first focused attention on this underused park in 2017 through securing an Arlington Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant for a community-driven redesign. Since that time a second CPA grant and federal Community Development Block Grant are contributing to a broader climate resilient park renovation.
Launched with Somerville CPA funding in 2017, MyRWA has been leading a community-driven vision for the revitalization of Blessing of the Bay State Park, one of the few waterfront parks available to nearby low-income residents. Recent success includes a 2019 MassTrails grant to upgrade its bicycle/pedestrian path. Adjacent to this park, Assembly Square’s Draw Seven Park will see millions in improvements to provide recreational opportunities, create a living shoreline, and increase coastal flood resilience for the adjacent Amelia Earhart Dam.
“I take great pride in the community activism and agency partnerships that have produced transformative open space investments like Baxter State Park in Assembly Square, and path investments like the shared-use boardwalk underneath the Wellington Bridge in Somerville,” said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. “I’m excited to help mobilize investment partnerships in Draw Seven Park and Blessing of the Bay Park that improve climate resilience and low-carbon mobility in 2020.”
“The Charles River and Boston Harbor have for years been more visible than the Mystic,” said Patrick Herron, MyRWA Executive Director. “The Mystic has similarly benefitted from decades of effort and millions in public investment to clean up our waterways. It’s really coming into its own, and these park investments are helping residents and visitors enjoy its renaissance.”