The greenway network along the Mystic and Malden Rivers offers relief from bustling city life while simultaneously connecting you to it. The greenway creates connections between Medford, Malden, Everett, and Somerville, and links them all to Boston itself. Imagine if this network were fully connected with safe or protected areas for everyone to walk or bike. The good news? There have been so many recent improvements that not only move the greenway network closer to a full connection but encourage activity and appreciation of natural resources.
In early July, over 50 people braved the summer heat to join Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)’s Landline Summer ride series exploring these connections. This ride, led by Amber Christoffersen, Mystic Greenways Director of Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and Jay Monty, Transportation Planner for the City of Everett, highlighted the progress that has been made while noting areas where improvements are in the works.
If you didn’t get a chance to join this ride, you’re in luck! In collaboration with MyRWA, LivableStreets will be hosting another bike ride to highlight all the great progress that has been made across municipalities and along the watershed, thanks in part to advocacy work by MyRWA. Check out their Greenways Project page on their website, join on Wednesday, August 14th, and continue reading to learn more about what you’ll see on the ride!
Setting Off Along the Mystic River
From Assembly Row in Somerville to the outer edges of Sullivan Square, a new shared-use path runs parallel to the Orange Line rail, providing connections for pedestrians into Assembly Row from Mystic Ave.
To ensure more people have access to this new connection, the City of Everett recently added Blue Bikes to their transportation system, and is now the only municipality in the region offering both docked and undocked bicycle options. Not only does this increase people’s transportation choices, it also increases the propensity for multimodality, since they’re placed in many high traffic locations like Night Shift Brewing and near bus transit along Broadway.
|Route 16 Bike Lanes in Everett / Photo: MyRWA|
There is now a safe bicycle connection along Route 16, between Sweetser Circle and its sister rotary. In what was once a daunting stretch of fast traffic, space has been carved out for protected, two-way on-street bicycle lanes. You can’t miss them: there are bright white and black reflectors on the edge of the track, making it highly visible to drivers and giving much-needed space for people on bikes.
These bike lanes lead to Everett’s grade-separated bike lanes along Broadway that offer a smooth path away from traffic and provide a connection to the Encore Harborwalk. The path continues underneath the commuter rail bridge where there is a beautiful community mural created by Everett students for you to enjoy on your way to Gateway Park.
Connections in Progress
Broken connections in the network can be especially tricky to navigate. Luckily, the Everett segments will become more fully connected in the next few years as more projects move towards completion.
Along the northern edge of the Mystic River, the Clippership Connector in Medford is a half-mile waterfront path that will make 10 miles of continuous greenways seamless; it will stretch from Medford Square to Riverbend Park and Andrew and McGlynn Schools. Now at 75% design, thanks to collaboration and funding from the Solomon Family Foundation, DCR, and local advocates, the project will be shovel-ready by the end of 2019.
The Somerville Community Path currently extends from Alewife Linear Park through Davis Square until it terminates at Lowell Street in Somerville. This path will be extended alongside the new Green Line Extension, and once built will go all the way to the Charles River Bike path. Although it will likely be a few years until the extension is complete, this path has strong community champions pushing for it, including the Friends of the Somerville Community Path.
The Mystic River Crossing, a proposed bridge across the Mystic, will connect existing paths along the Mystic River, such as the Assembly Row Bike Path, and connect them to Everett, across the water. Proposed by the Encore Boston Harbor, this new bridge path will connect to the Encore Harborwalk and would be crucial in creating a connection from Everett, which has no light rail, to Assembly Station on the Orange Line.
Tying it All Together
Public mural created by local high school students on the new Gateway Park Connector path in Everett
Like any long term plan, creating connected greenways involves a certain amount of vision and an ability to focus on the long term. Through the efforts and teamwork of the Friends of the Mystic to Charles Connector, MyRWA, and local municipalities, the Mystic to Charles Connector will bring together the Charles River Bike Paths, the Somerville Community Path, and the Grand Junction, creating a hub of bike path trails and ensuring a seamless Emerald Network before 2030.
With our own Emerald Network goal of a connected network of greenways throughout Metro Boston, the shared vision of other organizations such as the Mystic River Watershed Association makes for invaluable partnerships. For example, these projects could not have happened without advocacy from MyRWA, who collaborated with city and state entities and wrote grants that breathed life (and funds) into some of these projects. This kind of collaboration is what fuels these projects and bridges the gap between community desire and our regional vision of creating an interconnected metropolitan region. Check out this interactive map by Tufts UEP Students on their website for a different view of some of the projects mentioned above.
Ultimately, these connections along the Mystic and Malden rivers improve hundreds of acres of parkland and engage thousands of community members from the Mystic Lakes to the Boston Harbor, to the Charlestown Harborwalk, to the entire Emerald Network.
This Greenway Story was written with help from Amber Christoffersen, Mystic Greenways Director at Mystic River Watershed Association.