(Image courtesy DCR)
What many considered a dream is closer to becoming a reality after Governor Deval Patrick announced funding for the completion of the Neponset River Greenway Corridor.
The governor has 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.
“Investing in healthy, alternative modes of transportation will benefit residents today, and leave a lasting impact on the Neponset River Greenway Corridor for generations to come,” Patrick said in a statement.
Once completed the ten-mile trail, a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the DOT, and area advocacy groups, will stretch from Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester to Hyde Park, running along the Neponset River connecting to Mattapan as well as Milton.
“DCR considers the completion of the Neponset River Corridor to be a signature project that will connect our Blue Hills Reservation to Boston Harbor, while providing more access to public spaces for residents in urban neighborhoods, connecting communities and improving the transportation network,” Edward Lambert, the commissioner of DCR, said in a statement.
Backers of the project have pushed for years to design and complete missing segments of the trail in Dorchester, Mattapan/Milton, and Hyde Park but could never find the funding.
Now with the money the missing segments can be filled and a trail that will connect four communities and eleven urban wilds will be complete.
“It’s just so exciting,” said Valerie Burns, the executive director of the Boston Natural Areas Network, a long time backer of the project. “I think both BNAN and a lot of other groups saw this trail as a way to connect communities to each other and a river that people almost forgot was in Boston.”
The trail, which started as an idea in the early-90s, has become a symbol for many in the surrounding communities as they push for healthy, active lifestyles and alternative modes of transit.
“It’s been a tremendously longtime coming,” said Vivian Morris, the director of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. “We’ve been trying to change our physical environment to make it easier for people to be healthy, so having areas to safely walk and bike is important.”
The trail is currently missing three major segments.
A walkway and trail near the National Grid gas tank in Dorchester, which will provide a connection to Tenean Beach and the Port Norfolk section of the trail, still needs to be completed.
The trail is also missing a huge chuck from Central Avenue in Milton to Mattapan Square. The trail is expected to cut over to Milton from Dorchester for a portion of it and connect back over to the Mattapan side of the river near Ryan Playground on River Street. The trail will also eventually connect to Mattapan Square, via a planned trail house.
The third yet to be completed segment, the smallest of the three, is in Hyde Park near the Martini Shell on Truman Parkway. There a half-mile off-street route for bikes and pedestrians is expected be constructed.
“[The trail] stands on its merits as a terrific regional resource and it represents the result of hundreds of hours of difficult work and negotiation by residents of multiple communities and multiple agencies and elected officials to finally come to agreement on a design we can all live with," Jeff Stone, a Milton resident and Neponset River Greenway Council member, exclaimed when he heard the news.
The money will provide a major boost for the project that in the past struggled to find funding, but before any shovels hit the ground designs must be generated for the Mattapan/Milton and Dorchester portions of the trail.
“The Neponset River Greenway is an amazing natural resource, so connecting it to the community is critical,” explained senator-elect Linda Dorcena Forry, whose new district includes much of the trail. “Now it’s about figuring out a timeline and really seeing when we can get this done.”