A Greenway Gets its Start: Fairmount to Mattapan Feasibility Study Under Way

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Route Options, Fairmount to Mattapan Greenway (click image to enlarge).

Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation (SWBCDC) is an Emerald Network Greenway Partner actively working to expand access to open space for residents in Hyde Park.

This summer, with the help of María de la Luz Lobos Martínez, a graduate student in landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Emerald Network embarked on a feasibility study to help SWBCDC demonstrate the potential of the Fairmount to Mattapan Greenway.

The greenway is a direct effort to take action on the path proposed in the Go Boston 2030 plan and to supplement service improvements along the MBTA commuter rail Fairmount Line-- a goal of the 2014 Boston Plan’s Fairmount Indigo Corridor Plan.   

Ultimately, a project like this will involve many community stakeholders, but also private business owners, the Boston Transportation Department, Boston Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to negotiate all of the land use and design. A feasibility study lays the groundwork for ensuing discussions, allowing us to present various options to the public and seek input to make sure that whatever project we advocate for is one that demonstrates the community values and desires.

Maria and Emerald Network Program Manager Tony Lechuga began the process by walking the entirety of the north bank of the Neponset River from the Fairmount Station to Mattapan Station with a camera and measuring tape in hand. María’s background as an architect was essential in measuring widths, slopes, property boundaries, and all the vagaries of the landscape that will hinder or help the creation of this path. You can check out some of the photos from their walk here

Although it’s easy to get lost in the technical details of creating a report like this, María and Tony were also able to observe just how rich these neighborhoods are with schools, shopping, and potential connections to natural assets like parks and riverspace. Their walk and study revealed a wealth of underutilized riverfront space that could be used for paths and places to linger and enjoy the river. While the entirety of the path may not be able to be built directly next to the water, we found plenty of spaces that could be enhanced for public use as lookouts, future canoe launches, and places to connect with the river. Within this two mile stretch people could access shopping areas, an urban wild continually preserved by SWBCDC’s Green Team, Doyle Park, historic mills, multiple schools, and access to the MBTA commuter rail and Red Line.

The early stages of a greenway project are an exciting time for dreaming big and soliciting community feedback before moving into the negotiation and design phase. Assuming that the Emerald Network can help to create some consensus over the next year, and encourage the city and state to back the project, we will go through multiple phases of design where the community will be asked for feedback on everything from location to design, lighting, and amenities. Some of these decisions will depend on funding and space, but others will depend on community input.

The next step in the process will be to publicly present potential paths that the community can provide input on. We’ll continue to work collaboratively with SWBCDC, community stakeholders, Boston Transportation Department, and DCR to determine which pathway is the most desired and viable. If you live, work, or play in this area of Hyde Park and Mattapan we want to know what you want out of this proposed link in the Emerald Network!

Please email any suggestions or questions to Emerald Network Program Manager Tony Lechuga at tony@livablestreets.info. Subscribe to our email list for updates on this project and more.