Northern Strand Path Faces Obstacles in Extension to Mystic

By Seth Daniel

A good crowd of community members showed up on Thursday night, May 4, to learn and weigh in on a study that is looking to extend the Northern Strand Community Path all the way to the Mystic River.

The study is paid for by the City via a grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and is being conducted by Howard Stein Hudson (HSH) of Boston. The group is analyzing the best ways to bring the trail from its current terminus near Air Force Road down to the Mystic River next to the Wynn Boston Harbor.

In a separate project, Wynn Boston Harbor is studying the prospects of building a bike/pedestrian over the Mystic River that would connect the Northern Strand to Boston and Somerville paths.

That makes the extension all the more critical to create an unbroken chain that goes all the way from Lynn to Boston – but just how to get there is the question.

Lou Rabito of HSH said there are two options right now.

The first option, and the preferred option, is to bring the path through the railroad right of way, continuing down from the current terminus and behind the Gateway Center until reaching the water – where it will tie in with the Wynn plans.

However, there are two major obstacles to contend with.

The first is the MBTA’s ballast yard, which consists of huge piles of rocks used for train track beds. Most of the storage of those materials is on the right of way under the Parkway bridges.

A second consideration is the numerous wetlands that exist there and cannot be disturbed.

The path would have to be 25 feet from the centerline of the track to use the right of way, he said.

“We have to think and to consider how we will use that side of the track,” he said. “We have to keep those two things in mind. The T needs to be able to come in and store their ballast there. One concern they have is if they are loading there and the dust gets on cyclists or walkers who are going by…Trying to fit the path here is going to be a little bit of a challenge, but not impossible.”

The alternative would be to loop, somehow, around Santilli Circle and into the Gateway Mall using Mystic View Avenue. There, the path would tie into the existing paths that are part of the park adjacent to the Gateway Center.

Jay Monty of the City said there is some discussion now between the City and the owners of the Mall. As part of an agreement years ago with the City and state environmental regulators, the City contends that the Mall owners agreed to pay for the path extension is the City designed it. Now, however, the Mall owners aren’t so sure that is the case, and the state has lost all of the paperwork.

So, that continues to be a sticking point in the negotiations to carry out the study being done by HSH right now.

City officials, including Mayor Carlo DeMaria, have said in the past they believe they have a strong point and will work it out with the owners of the Mall.

Daryl Colson, and Everett resident who uses the path a lot and is now working for Wynn to design the new 7-Acre Park, said extending the path is a natural.

“I think it only makes sense, especially with Wynn coming in down there,” she said. “You should try to get more people down there using the path and people coming over from Boston and Cambridge too.”

The study will continue and HSH is scheduled to make some recommendations.

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