Officials to Cut Ribbon on Greenway Extension

By John Lynds

City and state officials will cut the ribbon on the final stretch of the long-awaited East Boston Greenway Extension Thursday. The ceremony will take place Thursday, May 26 at 12:45 p.m.

The final section was completed by the City of Boston and will connect the Massport section near Wood Island Marsh that was completed last year to Constitution Beach via an existing strip of MBTA owned land alongside the Blue Line.

“This is very exciting and once it is completed it will transform the neighborhood,” said LaMattina.

The pathway and all other major work was completed by the city in late fall but contractors waited until spring to landscape the connector.

“This is a game changer for East Boston,” said Chris Marchi who spent close to three years pushing for the connector. “Residents and entire families will be able to walk or bike from one end of East Boston to other without ever hitting a major road.”

Marchi said the Greenway Extension will also reconnect isolated neighborhoods with one another.

“Due to a highway, an airport, a toll plaza and a MBTA line the neighborhood has been fragmented in a lot of ways,” explained Marchi. “You have Jeffries Point, Eagle Hill, Orient Heights and St. Mary’s Parish. What this project does is allow all these neighborhoods to have a common parkway and pathway leading to different points throughout the neighborhood.”

While this section of the Greenway will be opened to the public Thursday, Marchi is still fighting to add one more entrance/exit along the Greenway. Marchi said an area of MBTA owned land near the Byron Street bridge would be the perfect place for an on and off ramp accessing the Greenway.

The City of Boston sent out bids last spring to complete the Greenway from the already finished Massport section to Constitution Beach and began work over the summer. Last summer Massport opened their section of the Greenway which runs from Frankfort Street to Short Street but the section that is being worked on by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has run into some snags.

The BRA was responsible for completing the last 1/4 mile of the Greenway to connect the Massport section to Constitution Beach. The BRA said the challenge with this particular project stems from the fact that none of the land is city-owned.

“That last 1/4 mile is split in ownership between Massport, the MBTA, and DCR, which has required a lot of negotiation over access and the phasing of construction,” said BRA’s Nick Martin at the time.

The Greenway Connector will include a 12ft.-wide multiuse path for walking, bike riding and rollerblading as well as a 10ft. vinyl-clad fence that will separate the path from the abutting MBTA Blue Line.

Last summer, after years of planning and development the first section of the East Boston Greenway Connector opened to the public.

This section of the Greenway Connector, built by Massport, opened with a new path that runs from Frankfort and Lovell Streets just beyond Bremen Street Park to a scenic vista at the Wood Island Bay Marsh, three-quarter miles away.

In 2011 Massport’s Board voted to approve the community and city’s request to use a small stretch of Massport owned property that use to be part of the famed Wood Island Park in order to connect the Bremen Street Park with a greenway path that will extend to Constitution Beach.

The city and Massport cut the ribbon on the first section of the Greenway Connector in November 2012.

In April 2011, at a Boston Conservation Commission hearing, the Commission reviewed Massport’s permit application for a proposed Green Bus Depot at Logan International Airport and voted to grant an Order of Conditions (wetland permit) for the project.

At the hearing, the commissioners applauded the efforts made to date to advance the greenway connector and voted to approve a permit with the proviso that Massport continue to work with City of Boston agencies and residents on the planning of a greenway connection to link Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach and other resource areas.

Greenway proponents spearheaded by community activists like Marchi and Gail Miller, in return for support for a Bus Depot at Logan, had spent two year fighting for the right to use a 25 ft. corridor between the proposed Logan Bus Depot and the community as a way to connect Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach. This would once and for all connect waterfront parks in the southern part of the neighborhood with parks and airport edge buffers in the northern part of Eastie. This will allow for one continuous park system and allow adults and children to ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade or take part in other leisurely activities without being dependent on busy neighborhood streets like Bennington Street.

The Commission initially refused to sign off on Massport’s plans to construct a Bus Depot in Logan’s Northwest Service Area until it sat down with proponents of the greenway extension plan.

At the request of former mayor the late Thomas Menino and Eastie’s elected officials a collaborative effort was developed between Massport and staff from city agencies to assess pathway design options that will address public safety, airport security and community access to their open space resources.

This work ultimately lead to the Massport Board’s vote to approve the community’s plans.

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