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Work on missing Neponset River Greenway Trail sections could begin as early as next year

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 5, 2013 02:44 PM

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Work to complete the three missing sections of the Neponset River Greenway Trail could begin as soon as next year, Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jack Murray told members of the Neponset River Greenway Council Wednesday.

The announcement was welcome news to council members, who have worked tirelessly over the years to complete missing portions of the trail, which will eventually create a mostly seamless 10-mile car-free path for bikes and pedestrians stretching from Hyde Park to Dorchester. The path would also facilitate a connection between the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton and the Boston Harbor.

In June Governor Deval Patrick committed $1.9 million in capital funding to design the missing segments of the greenway, in addition to a commitment by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to fund construction of the project, estimated to cost between $11 million and $14 million. Although the project is managed by DCR, DCR funds will not be used for it.

Once completed, the trail will stretch from Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester to the Neponset Valley Parkway in Hyde Park, running along the Neponset River connecting to Mattapan as well as Milton.

The trail, however, is missing segments in Dorchester, Mattapan/Milton, and Hyde Park.

Designs and permits for the Hyde Park section have been completed and the project is now waiting on the transfer of construction funds. The missing section in Mattapan/Milton, which stretches from Mattapan Square to Central Avenue in Milton and is the largest incomplete section, is currently in design and construction work could begin as soon as next year.

The trail is also still missing connections from Tenean Beach in Dorchester to Victory Road and from Victory Road to Morrissey Boulevard. A concept design has been created for the missing Morrissey section, but no construction plans have been generated. No design exists as of yet for the Tenean Beach section either.

The trail may be the largest project under the watchful eye of the council, but a number of projects are also on the group’s mind including the cleanup of the 15-acre Shaffer Paper site, which is located in the Port Norfolk neighborhood of Dorchester.

The site, which was acquired by DCR in 1986, has hosted a number of industrial uses in the past, including a lumber yard, leading to the contamination of the site with toxic and potentially hazardous chemicals.

“We just want to keep pushing it,” said Mary McCarthy, president of the Port Norfolk Neighborhood Association. “We do think there is an environmental hazard in our area that needs to be addressed; we just want it cleaned up.”

A Phase 4 report for the site has been completed and now DCR is working to find the funds to continue the remediation process, according to Murray.

Murray added that DCR will continue internal discussions to identify alternatives for cleaning up the site, eventually settling on a preferred alternative for the cleanup.

Murray estimated that DCR needs close to $225,000, which it is currently seeking, to continue the planning process and will eventually need $3.5 to $5-million to clean the site and the design and construct a park.

Disc Golf, a low-impact sport that mimics golf, but swaps in Frisbees for clubs and golf balls, was also briefly discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Advocates of the low-cost sport have been working since 2008 to develop a plan that would allow for the usage of a section of Pope John Paul II Park in Dorchester.

“We’re having an internal debate about if it is appropriate for the area,” said Murray. “I think in general there has been support for the plan, but some concerns have been voiced.”

Currently there is not a Disc Golf course in the city of Boston, with the closest courses in Needham and Easton.

No timeline has been set for that project, but Murray said the next step would be to hold some sort of public meeting on the issue.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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