By Seth Daniel
It might have been an eternity since anyone kayaked up the Malden River, but the Independent took advantage of a new kayak rental outfit on the Mystic River last week, and took a trip up the old river – a river than many hope can be reborn as a great recreational asset – with the folks from Paddle Boston.
Most in Everett wouldn’t even consider paddling up the Malden River, and likely would look at anyone considering it as a bit off. Perhaps they would even suggest going to the hospital for a checkup afterwards.
But none of that is necessary, and on most days of the year, the Malden River grades out with a ‘B’ or ‘C’ rating for water quality.
It’s made all the more easier to make such a journey with last month’s introduction of Paddle Boston kayak rentals at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Blessing of the Bay Boathouse on the Mystic River in Somerville – a short distance from Wellington Station and the Everett line.
After a short jaunt on the Mystic River – taking a look at some incredible shore restoration work going on at Medford’s McDonald Park, the mouth of the Malden River opened up just after the Orange Line railroad bridge and just before the Amelia Earhart Dam and Locks.
On the Everett side, one can see the Wynn Boston Harbor cranes in the background and the Gateway Center park – though the bank is mostly hidden behind scrub trees and other undergrowth, likely robbing residents of a tremendous view and boaters from a chance to run aground and relax for a bit in the beautiful waterfront park.
The other side of the River boasts a rarely used park and a running area below Wellington Station and Station Landing.
Quickly, from the vantage point of the water, one can quickly realize that the little Malden River could be a gem if the properties along the River were connected with pathways and access points.
The water doesn’t smell of the toxic sins of the past or isn’t overly polluted with trash and rubbish – though some locations on the River have room for improvement. Interestingly, the Everett/Medford portion seems to be the cleanest and most populated by wildlife.
The wildlife is everywhere – from turtles to swans to Great Blue Herons to fish of all kinds. There’s even talk that giant eels are living in the River, a definite plus that shows the habitat has come back and can support life.
The Everett and Medford/Malden locations show tremendous potential.
The Woods Memorial Bridge reconstruction project is progressing, which will make for a much quieter paddling adventure (right now the Bridge deck is made of slatted metal and is extremely loud and cars pound over it incessantly). There will also be a connecting pedestrian path under the new bridge decking.
The GE site on Everett’s side has long been an thorn in the River’s side, but all of that is about to change as Wynn Boston Harbor commences this summer with plans to create a River Walk on the huge site, along with a new, extensive public park there. That development will complement access already available at the River’s Edge properties, which set the standard for Public Access and include the Tufts Boathouse with several hundred yards of riverfront paths, benches and access.
A new development just south of that also seems to be following suit on the other side.
The National Grid site is the next piece that needs to be connected, and the electric company is currently in flux with a license that would require better access at their huge site that extends from Malden to Everett. It is the critical piece of privately owned property that could make or break the new plan for getting Everett people to the Malden River in one connected pathway.
Beyond National Grid, however, much improvement needs to be made.
Many industrial companies have done little to nothing, or have purposely cut off access to the river – such as Piantedosi Bakery, Cambridge Health Alliance and Super 88, among others.
Further up the Malden River is a mysterious boom that collects trash and debris and has become a focus of extreme ire for those who are friendly to restoring river access.
No one is sure where it came from, but during our paddle, we found a sad turtle resting on the boom and surrounded by ‘nip’ bottles, plastic bags and cans.
Beyond that, a day on the Malden River is what so many Everett residents crave when they load up their cars and drive an hour or so north to enjoy the outdoors.
It’s easy to imagine in a short period of time – if the momentum continues for the Malden River – Everett residents not having to drive to New Hampshire to enjoy a paddle down a beautiful nice, scenic river. One can imagine residents carrying their canoes or kayaks down from Main Street, or down the Northern Strand Community Path, and across the GE site where they could put them in the river and enjoy and afternoon on the water – perhaps even going through the locks and into Boston Harbor for an even bigger adventure.
In sum, the future of the Malden River shouldn’t be limited by what everyone knows about the past.
It has changed, though we haven’t been there to witness it.
It’s not what it used to be.
One needs only to grab a paddle and a kayak to find out.
The Paddle Boston facility (run by Charles River Canoe & Kayak) in Somerville on Shore Drive is open seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m. On weekends, they are open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Season passes and daily passes are available, as well as rentals. No experience is necessary and a short training is available.