By Seth Daniel
The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), along with a host of partners – including the City of Everett – has hired Utile consultants to embark on a Malden River Greenway Vision Plan this spring and summer.
The end result could be a series of connected open spaces along the river that brings together Everett, Malden and Medford as never before.
Amber Christoffersen, the new Greenways director for MyRWA, said the time for the Malden River is now given the development that is likely headed its way.
“The Malden River Greenway Vision Plan is part of a much larger vision which is in conjunction with the Mystic River,” she said. “That plan includes a plan for 20 miles of paths from Mystic Lake to Boston Harbor and includes all the tributaries like the Malden River and Chelsea Creek. We want to restore public access and improve public access. The Malden River is a really interesting place because of its industrial past. For 100 or 150 years, it has been relatively walled off to access…We see the Malden River area as a way to restore access and create this new open space.”
The goal of the Malden River Greenway Vision Plan is to create a shared vision for the Malden River corridor and connect this area to the Mystic Greenways, a network of more than 20 miles of parks and paths from the Mystic Lakes to the Boston Harbor. The study will place the Malden River in this bigger picture context and focus on access from the surrounding neighborhoods to the river, along the river and across the river.
The Malden River’s Greenway Plan is part of Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s commitment in returning the waterfront to the citizens of Everett. In his State of the City speech this past January, Mayor DeMaria stated, “I want a fully restored and open waterfront, with a canoe launch, a boathouse, walking trails, a fishing pier, and easy access to the beauty of nature for all of our residents.”
Entering as a major partner in the plan, as well as the overall plan for the entire Mystic River basin, is the Solomon Foundation – which was instrumental in planning for increased access and usage on the Charles River in Boston.
Having realized that dream, they said they are now turning their attention to the Mystic River and its tributaries – including the Malden River.
“It is such a dynamic river,” said Herb Nolan of the Solomon Foundation, who worked as a consultant in the master planning of the Charles River Basin in 2000. “There is so much potential and the time is now to get together and begin trying to steer the outcomes.”
Right now, all said, it is important to remember that one-third of the shoreline on the Malden River is developed and in use. Another one-third is in the planning or construction stage. However, the last third still has work to do – and without a continuous connecting path, the worry is that people will not use it.
Already, the River’s Edge development on the opposite bank from Everett, a pioneering effort by developer John Preotle, has incorporated great pathways and boating facilities on the shoreline.
In Everett, Wynn’s new park at the old GE/7-acre Park site will also set a high bar for river pathways and access. It is expected to start construction this summer.
That, they said, is part of the visioning exercise – to get a plan incorporating river uses on the Malden River as new developments come into the area.
“As development is taking place all along the river, this is a real opportunity to lead with the open space component,” said Christofferson. “We have some pioneers that have created great access at the edge of the River, but the usage is limited because there isn’t a contiguous network…The vision is to create a contiguous network of paths.”
The study is funded by a grant of $60,000 from sources like Solomon, the City of Everett, Wynn Boston Harbor, Bike to the Sea and Preotle. Research, design and community outreach will take place from June to September.
The final design is expected to be delivered in October.
Last week, most of the stakeholders were taken on a walking and bicycling tour of the area by MyRWA and the City of Everett. It was the kick-off unofficially to the process with Utile.
One major piece they will focus in on is the proposed pedestrian bridge from Everett to Station Landing – which will be key in addressing commuters who want to walk or bike to Wellington Station.
Other key focus areas include better access from Malden Center to the River, improving access from existing paths in Medford and also providing usage opportunities in Somerville.
Nolan said the Malden River is unique – and perhaps better than the Charles River – as it is more scenic and doesn’t have two large roadways running alongside it.
“You could effectively be on a river in Vermont; it’s pretty special,” he said. “We recognized that 18 months ago and began talking with everyone and saw that there was huge potential…The Malden River is a very old and industrial river and much of the parcels of land are in private hands. That makes it much different than the Charles and a great opportunity. With the Charles, you have these continuous roadways running beside you and that’s not the case with the Malden. You’ll be able to walk along the Malden River and not be adjacent to a big highway on both sides.”