It was but one year ago when residents of Everett and neighboring communities joined Department of Environment Protection (DEP) Commissioner Marty Suuberg on the BNY Mellon property on the banks of the Malden River to dream about future access along the River.
Just a year later, last Friday, it was Suuberg’s DEP that wrote a decision that goes a long way to making that dream a reality – a Chapter 91 license decision that orders National Grid to build, maintain and create signage for a pathway that will run the full length of their longtime riverfront property. It’s a property that has closed off access to the River for residents more than a century.
And that’s all about ready to change, as the dream of a unified pathway along the Everett side of the Malden River is now seeming to be a reality.
“The Department determines that said project is in compliance as a public waterfront walkway providing point access from Medford Street to an existing overlook onsite and shall be further improved by the construction and maintenance of the required public access walkway running immediately along the Malden River on the western side of the National Grid property, from Medford Street in Malden to either the Northern Strand Community Trail at the southern end of the National Grid facility, or, to the L Park/Rivergreen Recreational Area in Everett as a condition to the license,” read the decision.
It send shockwaves through the Malden River communities on Monday, when it was realized that the Greenway vision was likely to become reality sooner than anyone expected.
“It’s been nearly two years since the Mystic River Watershed Association and partners packed Everett City Hall for the DEP’s Chapter 91 License Application Public Hearing—and I am so excited today to share this great news,” said Patrick Herron, executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association. “Thank you to DEP for demanding fair access to the Malden River, beginning to right the many inequities that this water body and local residents have faced throughout the years.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the Malden River has been a priority, and this was great news.
“Since I took office, I have made it a top priority for my administration to work with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and our State Delegation to review Everett waterfront parcels to ensure that all property owners along our waterfront are providing required public access to the water to the maximum extent possible,” he said. “I am proud to announce that this past Friday this vision came one step closer to becoming a reality. I commend and thank DEP Commissioner, Martin Suuberg, for requiring National Grid to design and build a walking path on its property abutting the Malden River.”
Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke and Malden Mayor Gary Christenson also praised the decision. The three mayors had formed a strong alliance with MyRWA and other partners to change the momentum of the National Grid license, which at one time two years ago was completed without a pathway mandate. Were it not for a mistake in the certified mail notification process, which clawed the process back to the community, the pathway would have never become reality.
“It’s very big news because now every other property on the Everett side of the river will be accessible,” said Amber Christoffersen of MyRWA, who led the Malden River visioning plan. “Between this and other complementary development efforts, there is a lot of progress that will be coming on the Malden River Greenway in the next two years. That’s very unique as far as timing goes. I would say the National Grid decision is really going to add to a lot of the existing momentum.”
National Grid did not respond to e-mails about their take on the decision and whether or not they would appeal.
Herron, however, said he hopes they take a leadership position and get on board with the larger effort.
“National Grid has the opportunity to take a leadership role,” he said. “They have the ability to be the absolute most positive player or it can be the lone contrarian.”
In a November 2016 hearing at Everett City Hall, National Grid proposed a 100-foot path on the north-side of the site with the remaining 2,000-plus feet of riverfront blocked off to the public once again. Testimonies by two dozen elected officials and citizens and written comments submitted by each of the three cities, unanimously rejected this proposal, calling for National Grid to build a waterfront path along the entirety of their property and connect to the planned Malden River Greenway.
The unified voices of the community and decision-makers have continued to push DEP and National Grid to open up this shoreline for nearly two years.
The decision by DEP is the first step to creating a seamless greenway that would serve thousands of surrounding residents many of whom represent environmental justice communities, MyRWA said in a release.
National Grid will be required to submit a plan within one year and complete the construction within two years.