By Seth Daniel
If one were to ask directions to the Malden River from almost any person on the streets of Everett, they would likely not know any more than the person asking.
The Malden River has been forgotten for generations, though it runs right through the western neighborhoods of Everett. That’s mostly because the river has been “stay away” territory for decades. Though the picturesque waterway winds through the City, like most of Everett’s waterfront, young people and adults were told to not go near the river as it was significantly polluted.
For decades, the old General Electric plant blocked access to a good deal of the riverfront, and other heavy industry also got in the way of the residents accessing the water. And even if there was access, the water wasn’t the kind of water anyone really wanted to have access to.
That’s all about to change if Mayor Carlo DeMaria has anything to say about it – not to mention advocates from the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and the Friends of the Malden River.
All now have a vision for the forgotten waterway that includes transportation, recreation and exercise.
“I haven’t been that involved, but I want to get more involved with the communities and people all along the Mystic River,” said Mayor DeMaria. “There may be a way where we can clean up that river and connect all these areas [by water]. I’d like to see that river way cleaned up. It’s a big goal of mine now. Right now, there are kids from Everett rowing crew on the Malden River. Imagine that? My parents always told me never to go anywhere near that river, and now kids from Everett are rowing on it…It would be incredible to get people on that water rowing or crewing or getting exercise. I’m hoping in my lifetime we’re able to swim in the Malden River – to be able to be on the GE parkland and to swim there. I’d love to see that.”
But that could very well happen.
Beth McBlane of the MyRWA said her organization and members have a similar vision that includes access to the water, as well as connectivity to bicycle trails and parklands.
“The Mystic River Watershed Association is very pleased to see Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s focus on increasing connectivity of bike paths and open space throughout the City as well as on Everett’s waterways – the Mystic and Malden Rivers,” said McBlane. “Bringing people to the river through connected pathways and offering an opportunity to access the river via canoe and kayak will only strengthen efforts to clean up these natural resources.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who represents the Malden River area, said he fully supports the idea. He said he has seen the progress Malden has made on its side of the River – including developing properties and parks on the banks of the river.
“As the City Councilor from the area that has water access, I totally agree with Mayor DeMaria’s vision and plans for the Malden River,” said McLaughlin. “I support the clean up and opening of the Malden River fully. I have seen firsthand what is happening on the Malden side of the river. I know the local school’s as well as many other organizations and local residents enjoy the use of the waterways, so why not in Everett? I have lived in Everett all of my life and have never had the opportunity of using our waterfront. After talking with area residents and hearing of days past when we had access of the Malden River, I am absolutely on board.”
One obstacle standing in the way of a clean Malden River is actually the infrastructure in Everett and surrounding communities. Many of the sewer systems can overflow during heavy rain events because they aren’t all separated from the stormwater systems. When those combined sewer outflows – known as CSOs – overflow, they dump stormwater and sewage into the river.
Working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other governing bodies, DeMaria said they are making progress to end that pollutant.
“We’re really trying to make sure those illicit discharges don’t happen,” said DeMaria.
McBlane said the CSO situation does pose a significant pollution threat to the river, and eliminating it would be a major step towards getting the Malden River usable once more.
“Mayor DeMaria is correct – stormwater poses a threat to the health of the Malden River, which received a “C-“ water quality grade for bacteria in the 2014 EPA-issued Mystic River Water Quality Report Card,” said McBlane. “We commend the City for their stormwater awareness program. We look forward to working with the City of Everett around improved stormwater management and the inclusion of Green Infrastructure.”
For DeMaria, he said the idea of cleaning up the waterways is outside of the usual City discussions, but after looking at a map, one begins to realize how tied to the water Everett could be.
He said the City has already secured a boat launch for non-motorized vessels at the Mellon Bank site, which is where the crew team is based. There are also plan for another canoe launch and pier at the GE parkland site.
“You look at Somerville and they have the Winter Hill Yacht Club down there and Medford has its yacht club and moorings,” he said. “We’re surrounded by water in Everett, but we have no access to it. GE had it wrapped up over there for years, but I see what Wynn is planning to do for the Monsanto site, and I want to be able to do the same thing all the way up the waterfront to the Everett/Malden line. It’s a major goal of mine now.”