CWC November Report
Next Meeting: Monday, December 7th at Building 114 at 7:00 PM
Report on the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) Awards:
On Friday, October 23rd, at the Tufts Boathouse on the Lower Malden River in Medford, MET announced its awards for the second round of competition for $500,000 worth of grants. All the grants went to improving and expanding public access to the Lower Malden and Mystic Rivers.
The largest grant of $201,000 went to the City of Somerville for renovations to the Blessings of the Bay Boathouse and docks (a DCR facility) to make them more accessible and safer for all users, including the handicapped. In addition, funds will be used to create the “Blue Heron Path” from Foss Park (adjacent to Rt. 28/McGrath Highway, opposite the Stop & Shop) to the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse, a facility which today is significantly underutilized.
The Blessings of the Bay Boathouse is tucked away between Rt. 93 and the Mystic River. One cannot see it from 93 northbound, and it is not visible from Mystic Avenue. These planned renovations and pathway with join with much improved pathways coming from that area to the new park at Assembly on Mystic. Members may remember the land swap between DCR and Federal Realty Investment Trust which will produce a brand new family oriented park along the Mystic’s edge from Rt. 28 to the Winter Hill Yacht Club.
The second largest grant of $150,000 went to support the development of the Wellington Greenway, a proposal by John Preotle’s development company to compliment his mixed use development on Corporation Way next to the Tufts Boathouse. Mr. Preotle has pledged to contribute an additional $75,000 to the project which will link all the properties along Corporation Way to the Wellington Orange Line T Station. Although a semblance of a pathway now exists, much work has to be done to make it pedestrian and handicap friendly, and to clear brush, invasive species and trees which block the view of the Lower Malden River, an extraordinarily beautiful amenity which currently obscured.
The City of Everett received $75,000 to create a canoe/kayak ramp at its Village Landing Park on the Lower Malden River, roughly opposite the Tufts Boathouse. There is major green space and pathways adjacent to the mall development where the Target box store is located. The new canoe launch will open an extraordinarily beautiful part of the Lower Malden to recreational use free from motorized craft.
The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) will receive $42,000 to create an Urban Trail Map and accompanying Activity Guide to publicize and highlight Lower Malden and Lower Mystic water access points and trails. In addition, MyRWA will lead guided canoe and kayak outings to familiarize the public with both rivers.
Finally, the City of Medford received $40,000 to improve Condon Shell Park which will connect Medford Square to the Mystic River.
In summary, then, one of CWC’s most cherished goals of opening up the Lower Malden and Mystic Rivers to public access and use has taken a huge leap forward. The Steering Committee is pleased beyond measure, and we hope the membership share in that pleasure.
Update on the Rutherford Avenue/Sullivan Square (RA/SS) Redesign:
BTD documents from the last Sullivan Square redesign meeting showing an at-grade design (i.e., a filled in tunnel) and also showing a design maintaining the tunnel were presented to the CWC Steering Committee. Discussion was followed by a straw poll showing a majority of those present preferring the at-grade design, with two individuals reserving judgment until more is known about the traffic impact of filling in the tunnel.
BTD consultants have done an exhaustive traffic study with projections to the year 2030. The analysis shows closing the tunnel will ease the current serious rush hour congestion. But until individuals see those projections and listen to the justifications, some feel the need to reserve judgment.
BTD clearly prefers the at-grade design, as did about 80 to 85% of the people at the BTD meeting where the redesigns were first presented. But questions have come up as a result of the recent closing of the tunnel for repairs and the “The Town” movie production’s temporary closing of Rutherford Avenue. These events have created a high level of anxiety among RA/SS area residents regarding removal of the tunnel.
BTD argues pedestrian crossings, greater additional green space for Ryan Playground, and a major corridor for cyclists and pedestrians from City Square to the Mystic River’s edge, are enhanced by the at-grade design. In addition, BTD’s analysis projects a significantly greater number of parking spaces along Rutherford and at Sullivan Square, with the at-grade design. And finally, as the Big Dig tunnel project has demonstrated, development opportunities over tunnels are very expensive. Consequently, development will come more quickly on parcels created by the at-grade design.
All of these arguments are cogent and well taken, but the Charlestown community must be persuaded that the at-grade design will indeed reduce traffic congestion. The CWC Steering Committee urges all its members to attend the next BTD meeting and presentation of the SS redesign. For the first time in many decades, Charlestown has the opportunity to recreate a park and significant green space at SS, and an opportunity to actually walk to the Mystic River!
Update on CWC’s Mystic Beach Concept:
Members will recall that CWC presented to the Mayor and the BRA that a land swap of sorts be negotiated with the MBTA for a substantial increase the 12 foot easement granted to DCR along the Mystic’s shore from Draw 7 Park in Somerville to Rt. 99 in Charlestown. In exchange for 4 or 5 acres at the river’s edge, Charlestown would support significantly increased densities and heights at the T Station and adjacent to Rt. 93. This exchange would allow the T to bundle properties together for lease to a deep pocket developer to build a large, smart growth mixed use development.
Members will recall the Mayor gave his full support for this initiative, and CWC representatives have met twice with the BRA. We will be meeting again with the BRA and Mark Boyle, Director of the MBTA’s Real Estate Department, on November 19th to explore the feasibility of such an exchange.
In summary, the MET grant awards, the potential green space and pathway which could result from the SS redesign, and the possibility of a Charlestown park on the Mystic certainly portend an exciting vision. We will need luck and intelligent energy to achieve that vision!
Update on Collaborative Sailing Day for Disabled Youth:
The October 4th one day pilot sailing and sports partnership successfully tested the feasibility of creating a small summer program at Parcel 4 next year. In January, Courageous Sailing, Piers Park and CWC will begin to brainstorm, perhaps something like an afternoon a week program.
Two interesting developments came out of this short afternoon. The first: Mayor Menino has offered to help CWC, Courageous and Piers Park fund raise for the small disabled sailing summer program. His support will be much appreciated.
Second: In a brief conversation with Gene O’Flaherty that Sunday afternoon, CWC spoke tentatively about possible sources for capital funds to create a permanent disabled sailing program at Parcel 5. As many members are aware, CWC has long advocated for Parcel 5 as the most prominent site at the north end of the Yard, be used for public purposes, such as a commuter ferry depot, a public marina for overnight moorings, and as a site for an expanded sailing program. CWC believes the Navy Yard does not need another expensive condominium or hotel at this site.
During his visit to our event on Sunday, 10/4, Gene spoke of his job as a teenager, working for a DCR sailing program at the Somerville’s Blessings of the Bay Boat House. He reported that DCR has had a South Boston based adaptive sailing program for over three decades, and that the original program director (who hired him for his summer job at Blessings of the Bay) continues to direct the current DCR disabled sailing program.
A collaborative disabled sailing program among Courageous, Piers Park and DCR would substantially strengthen the case for significant future earmarking of state capital dollars. Parcel 5 would be a fabulous site for multi-use building serving a broad series of public purposes. Certainly, this is an intriguing if very long term vision.
Finally, Leslie Dennis and Pam Daly, CWC Steering Committee members, created a poster with funding support credits imposed on wonderful pictures of the 10/4 event; the poster with a thank you note was sent to all our financial supporters, including the Mayor. The poster is attached to this report.
Update on Navy Yard Pier 6 Gate:
The gate on the north side of the Tavern on the Water is open. For how long, is any one’s guess!
Update on CWC Blog:
CWC has a volunteer experienced college student helping to set up a CWC blog, which would represent a convenient way for members and others to access our reports and pictures of our events, such as the Disabled Sailing Day.
Membership renewals have gone very well. Those few recalcitrant members who have not renewed will receive a phone call very soon!
Respectfully submitted, Ivey St. John