Proposed Design Concepts for Greenway Improvements Revealed

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Proposed design concepts to improve portions of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway were presented during a public meeting last week hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

These concepts stem from a project to renovate the city-owned part of the Greenway from Porter Street to Marginal Street.

According to the project webpage located on the city’s website, the goals of these improvements are to “reduce stormwater and coastal flooding, both near-term and long-term,” “provide cool spots along the greenway to help mitigate urban heat island,” and “promote tree health.”

Amy Linné, the Project Manager and a Member of the Parks and Recreation Department explained that initial community engagement began in the summer of 2022 but was paused due to a change in project managers.

An initial design meeting was held in January, and then an online survey was released in February. The results of the survey were shared last week.

“We’ll take the feedback from tonight’s meeting to work on the design for the Greenway and then also to get a better idea of the costs and what can be done within the current budget,” said Linné.

“So then we’ll share that at a third meeting this summer. We anticipate final design and permitting to happen in late summer [or] early fall, and construction anticipated to start in 2025.”

Before the design concepts were presented, Cheri Ruane of Weston & Sampson, the project’s Consultant, walked through the area’s existing conditions and some of the flooding that occurs.

Ruane explained that stormwater flooding on the Greenway is caused by runoff from adjacent properties, low-elevation areas on the Greenway, impervious surfaces, and more.

She also outlined some ways the flooding could be quelled, such as through green infrastructure (rain gardens), grey infrastructure (catch basins), elevating pathways on the Greenway, and more.

Ruane also walked through the survey responses. The 89 responses called for amenities such as seating, plantings, improved lighting, and more at entrances and at the Greenway itself.

Moreover, most survey responses thought that reducing flood impacts was the most critical improvement for the Greenway and preferred keeping its existing condition with two separate paths for different uses.

As the meeting progressed, Farah Dakkak, the project’s Landscape Architect, outlined the proposed design concepts.

“We’d love to hear feedback on where we are at in the process and the design thinking we’ve done so far, and with that feedback, we will continue developing the design and come back to you in a couple of months and sort of show you the progress,” said Dakkak.

As part of the presentation, Dakkak discussed four sections of the project area and the proposed concepts for each section.

The first area she discussed was from Marginal Street to Sumner Street. In this area, there are plans for minor adjustments to the path. The path alignment will stay the same, with new and relocated lighting and a reduction in pavement.

Plans also include adding pavers and cafe-style tables near the blue caboose. Dakkak also discussed the idea of adding programming in the area near the blue caboose.

“Perhaps we could envision that area up top to host a farmers market or sort of an art market where vendors could set up tents and sort of take advantage of this whole green space and be a community anchor that people can meet at,” Dakkak.

She also zoomed in on concepts for the Marginal Street entry, which included the aforementioned plans near the blue caboose, adding a trash receptacle, preserving the existing ornamental fence in the area, and more.

The next area discussed was from Sumner Street to Maverick Street. This area has plans for drainage improvements, a rain garden, seating, and more. The city is also considering the potential for a deployable barrier and accompanying storage container.

“Right under Sumner Street, there is infrastructure installed that would allow for the installation of a deployable barrier, and the city’s looking at where we could locate that infrastructure — those pieces — that would need to be installed during a storm event and we’re trying to think through locating that on-site,” said Dakkak.

Moreover, the pathway alignment is planned to stay the same, and they are considering elevating a section of the lower path.

The Sumner Street to Gove Street area was also discussed. “This is the only portion of the site where we are proposing the pathway to merge into one,” said Dakkak. The pathway would turn into one and be elevated at about 12 feet in width.

“The reason for that is that this is the area that is most prone to water ponding, and we think that in doing this, we would decrease the amount of impervious surface and allow for more infiltration,” she added.

There are also plans to add ground markings to differentiate bike versus pedestrian uses, realign seating, and install new lighting.

Dakkak also mentioned that there is a consideration for places in this area to be bridged over to “allow for water to sort of cross over the path.”

Finally, Dakkak outlined the Gove Street to Porter Street area. Plans here include fence improvements on the northern edge, slope stabilization, drainage improvements, seating, and more. The pathway alignment in this area would also remain the same.

To wrap up, Dakkak discussed plans to incorporate signage and strengthen the art program and outlined proposed site materials.

The floor was opened after the presentation so attendees could comment or ask questions.

Jane O’Reilly, a Gove Street Citizens Association Board Member, thanked those involved with the project and made a few requests. She had requested more and better trash cans and training to maintain trees and grass.

John Casamassima, an Orient Heights Neighborhood Council member, made several comments.

Casamassima pondered if granite blocks could be used for seating instead of benches to discourage folks from staying in the Greenway overnight.

Linné indicated that the benches proposed have a middle armrest, so they are less accommodating for overnight stays, and indicated they have heard feedback that granite blocks are less comfortable for seating.

Casamassima also wondered if the better plan to address the flooding problem was to manage runoff from parking lots rather than raise or change the pathways.

Ruane indicated that runoff is part of the problem but not most of it. “Even if we were to stop every drop of abutter runoff, you would still end up with impassible pathways,” she said.

Casamassima also commented that the Greenway’s maintenance is poor and was concerned about adding features like rain gardens if they were not going to be appropriately maintained.

Linné, in part, said, “We would only do what we knew could be maintained.”

Valerie Burns also made some comments, including widening the path that is proposed to be merged to 16 feet, focusing on addressing runoff from parking lots and making entrances more welcoming and announced.

Ethan Vogt also suggested bringing the programming idea, with an art or farmers market proposed near the blue caboose, to the Gove Street area.

As the meeting wrapped up, several other comments and suggestions were made. For those interested in viewing the meeting recording and learning more about the project and future engagement opportunities, visit

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