Oil Spill Remediation Money to Clear the View at Rivergreen

More than an acre of Malden River waterfront will be cleared of invasive phragmites and vegetation, and replanted with native plants and trees – while also clearing the site lines for those using the RiverGreen Park.

The project is on about one acre of land just south of the new boat launch in RiverGreen park, and is principally sponsored by Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA). That area along the Malden River is experiencing a resurgence in all ways, but because of invasive phragmites and trees, few can see the changes.

“This project is about connecting people to the River and creating a more ecologically rich habitat and area,” said Amber Christoffersen of MyRWA. “The first time I went back there a few years ago I was excited about the new River Walk, but quickly realized you couldn’t see the River from the River Walk. Because the site has been untouched for 100 years, invasive species have taken over and choked out the wildlife, native species and people as well.”

The overall goal this spring and summer – if the project is approved by the City’s Conservation Commission this week – is to remove the phragmites and invasive species and replace them with native species, while monitoring those plantings over a two-year period.

“That is our general strategy,” she said. “Cleaning out of phragmites is very difficult and ongoing…In this case, we’re going to do a first round of phragmites removal with cutting and herbicides and put in woodland species that would outgrow phragmites. Basically, it’s putting a living plant that provides shade and shades out the phragmites over time…It’s a unique and innovative strategy. Usually, such things are removing the phragmites and hoping that a native species pops up to replace it. This actually replaces them with a native species that we believe will bring back the native habitat.”

Those plantings include shade trees and shrubs, though one shouldn’t expect a grassy bank right into the River as might be seen on the Charles River in places. Instead, there would be viewing areas through the plantings and a way to see the River in areas that are now blocked off.

The genesis of the project comes from federal funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or NAWCA. In 2006, the Exxon Mobil Terminal in Everett had an oil spill into the Lower Mystic Region. That resulted in a fine of about $1.6 million that went to the government and was supposed to return to the Mystic area. However, in 2011, it somehow went to the City of Boston, though they weren’t able to use it in time and had to return it. In 2017, the money was again up for grabs and Buzzard’s Bay was trying to get it for a project on Cape Cod. Instead, MyRWA Director Patrick Herron and Chelsea GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni travelled to Washington, D.C., and strongly advocated that the money come back to the Mystic River and not go to Buzzard’s Bay. In the end, they had to identify six other projects to use the money on all over the state, but the majority of the funding came to the Mystic area for this project, as well as another Living Shoreline installation at the Draw 7 Park project across the river from the Encore Boston Harbor casino.

Christoffersen said, if approved, they hope to begin removal of the invasive species this spring, and start planting new species in the summer and through next year.

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