Notes on Watertown-Cambridge Greenway Meeting

The meeting was held Monday, November 30, 6:30 to 8:30PM at the Atrium School, 69 Grove Street, in Watertown. Roughly 100 people attended.

DCR’s Dan Driscoll and the design consultant (VHB) presented an overview of the path planned to connect Arlington Street in Watertown to the Fresh Pond reservation. The new path will leave Arlington Street across from Nichols Avenue and join up with the existing paths around Fresh Pond near the Cambridge waterworks.

  • It will be a full width path with 12 feet of travel surface.
  • It will be mostly unlit, but there will be lighting in the tunnel under Mount Auburn.
  • There will be four main access points.
  • Privacy buffers along the path will be plantings as opposed to fencing.
  • DCR will maintain the path and expects to plow it during the winter. The shoulders will be mowed, but vegetation will be allowed to grow more or less wild after the initial planting.
The response was positive — most speakers were eager to have the path built, but a number of concerns were raised:

  • Additional lighting was sought by some (but opposed by others).
  • Many sought additional access points to the path. This was probably the most heated issue in the meeting and discussion will continue on the possibility of adding more access points.
  • There will be a need to create way-finding signs so that people know how to get down to the path because it is below grade at many points.
  • There was a back and forth within the audience on whether parking spaces should be created on state land along the path near Holworthy Street.
  • Concern was expressed for the sensitive displacement of homeless encampments along the right of way.
  • Concern was expressed for public art as a component of the project — perhaps along the bridge surfaces.

Representative Hecht summarized, emphasizing our shared commitment to getting the details right as the project moves forward, but most importantly to getting the project to end of job.

The next public meeting will be in March 2016 and the hope is that construction could start in the Fall of 2016.

According to DCR’s meeting notice: You can comment submit comments online, but as of this writing, this link did not appear to be configured properly. You can also write to the DCR Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02114. The deadline for public comments is Tuesday, December 22, 2015.

The materials from the meeting should be posted on DCR’s website soon.

For additional background, see the project page on the City of Cambridge website.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

One reply on “Notes on Watertown-Cambridge Greenway Meeting”

  1. I believe that in order to maximize the utility of the path for the surrounding community, it is critical that the Greenway include multiple access points along its entire length, particularly as it passes through residential neighborhoods like Strawberry Hill. To leave residential access to private landowners who may or may not permit access across their property strikes me as less than ideal. In my opinion, it is much better to create frequent, permanent, public access points. At a minimum, these access points should include the following five locations:

    1) Access to Mt. Auburn Street at Holworthy Street
    I believe that it is critical that a ramp be created at Mt. Auburn Street in order to provide access to the path for those travelling inbound from Watertown/Belmont who wish to quickly access the Greenway in either direction. In addition, I expect that many path users would want access to Star Market, Sofra, and other businesses clustered in this area. Though the Mt. Auburn overpass is approximately 15’ above the level of the path, a ramp could be easily added on Holworthy Street, with an entrance located about 100’ down from the corner of Belmont Street. Holworthy Street dips down significantly from Belmont Street at this point, and the grade to be managed is only about 5-8’. Plenty of room exists for a ramp that would ascend from the path up to street level parallel to the path. Maintaining a 5 degree slope for ADA compliance, such a ramp could be as short as 60’ in length, a length that would easily fit in the available space.

    2) Access to Holworthy Place
    This quiet lane has easy access from a City street directly on to the path with no grade change. This would provide a great access point to and from the Strawberry Hill neighborhood, as well as for those attempting to walk/bike to or from the Haggerty School on Cushing Street. Thank you for including it in your proposal.

    3) Access to Homer Avenue
    Homer Avenue provides direct access to the Star Market parking lot, Aberdeen Lofts, the Apartments at 66 Homer Ave, the Aberdeen Branch Library, and the office building at 625 Mt. Auburn Street (tenants include Charles River Analytics, Mt. Auburn Hospital, and a number of other health-related offices). It is important that a linkage exist from the Greenway to Homer Avenue, either across the back of the Star Market parking lot, or through the parking lot of 66 Homer Avenue. Both properties currently allow casual access to the path, so I would hope that access could be maintained here, even if it required a negotiated easement with one of the abutters. In combination with the access point at Holworthy Place, many residents of Strawberry Hill use this access to Homer Avenue as a quick shortcut to the Star Market, the library, and points beyond.

    4) Access to Huron Avenue
    I believe that an access point at Huron Avenue is critical to the local utility of the future Greenway, as Huron Avenue provides direct access to Glacken Field, the Russell Youth & Community Center, the Fresh Pond municipal golf course, the Haggerty School, Parents Nursery School, and the Aberdeen Avenue branch library. In addition, Huron Avenue provides a convenient entry point for Greenway users originating in the Strawberry Hill, Larchwood, and Huron Village neighborhoods. This allows students attending school at the Tobin Montessori School or the Vassal Lane Upper School to utilize the Greenway on their daily commute rather than the existing surface streets, most of which currently lack separated cycling facilities.

    At previous meetings, it has been said that an access point at Huron Avenue would be prohibitively expensive due to the difference in elevation existing between the Huron Avenue Bridge and the rail bed below. As measured, the difference is 24’10”. Such a significant difference would require a very long ramp (approximately 298 feet) to meet ADA standards for accessibility. That said, I also measured the length of the existing trail through the woods beginning on Huron Avenue (just west of the Huron Avenue Bridge) and extending all the way down the hill to the Fresh Pond Reservation perimeter path. This pathway, which is currently maintained by the City with a wood chip base, measures 10’ wide and is 351’ in length. The resulting grade of 7.09%, though greater than the 5% grade required for ADA-compliant ramps without handrails, is well below the ADA standard of 8.33% specified for ramps with handrails and resting points. Given that this heavily used path is one of at least ten separate desire lines connecting Huron Avenue and the perimeter path below, I believe that this path, with the addition of a wooden handrail and a suitable surface, would make an ideal location for a ramp connecting Huron Avenue to both the perimeter path and, consequently, the Greenway proper. Not only would such a path connect the Greenway to the park above, it would also help to reduce erosion all along Glacken Slope and within the Pine Forest, erosion due to frequent casual foot traffic throughout the forested area.

    5) Access to the Fresh Pond perimeter path
    Running parallel to the rail bed, the Fresh Pond Reservation perimeter path lies very close to the future Greenway route: only 45-79’ as measured at various points along its length. As a result, multiple casual paths have been created by Reservation users moving back and forth between the rail bed and the perimeter path. The unfortunate result has been extensive erosion within the existing pine forest terrain. Going forward, I would hope to see these multiple casual paths replaced with two clearly marked and well maintained paths: one at each end of the pine forest section of the route. This would allow simple access to and from the perimeter path for those Greenway users wishing to enjoy the Fresh Pond Reservation.

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