Back in 2003, the Department of Conservation and Recreation created a master plan for the Alewife Reservation.
A lot has happened since that plan was drafted. Some of its recommendations have been implemented — notably the Fitchburg Cutoff Path that connects Brighton Street to Alewife. Additionally, of course, the Royal Belmont development on the Belmont Uplands has replaced some of the Silver Maple Forest.
One recommendation that has not yet been implemented is the construction of a path connecting Brighton Street west of Hill Estates to the Uplands. The proposed path is shown in green the Google Map frame below, roughly traced from the Master Plan (Findings and Recommendations, p.25).
The pedestrian path would go along the shores of Little Pond next to Hill Estates, cross a new pedestrian bridge and continue on to Acorn Park Drive near what is now the Royal Belmont. It would be intended for pedestrians and would be surfaced, but not paved — so few cyclists would be likely use it.
The benefits of the path would be:
- Connect Winn Brook to walking paths in the DCR Reservation around Little Pond and along the Little River
- Connect residents of the Royal Belmont to the Winn Brook neighborhood
The path in yellow in the map is an alternative route suggested by an abutter that is shorter and perhaps less disruptive to abutters. This alternative certainly merits consideration too — it is not quiet as direct to Winn Brook or the Center of Town, but by connecting to the Fitchburg path, it creates other possibilities.
Mail-to set for informal survey (N=470)
Recently, a constituent urged that this project be moved forward. I thought I would check in with people to get a sense of interest. I sent an email at 9:15PM on June 4 to 470 residents of the Winn Brook area — residents within a map-based selection for whom I had an email address as a result of their contact with my office. The map below shows the recipients of the email.
In the first 24 hours after I sent that email, 116 people took the time to visit this page and indicate their sentiments by completing a survey form asking a single question about their reaction to the path. I do not know for certain that the people visiting the page were the same as those that received the email, but during this period, the responses varied consistently — there was no run of the same response; it does not appear that anyone was stuffing the ballot box. Additionally, I added a facebook post after about 12 hours, but 85 people had already responded and it is unlikely that many clicked through on the facebook post. In summary, it appears likely that most or all of the responses were from area residents receiving the email.
First 24 Hours of Responses to question: Build the path — your feelings in a nutshell? (N=116)
|I don’t care:||13||11.2%|
|Love this idea:||38||32.8%|
I also received a number of direct email responses as well as comments on this page. Among those who had concerns and questions, the most common issues were:
- How much is it going to cost? No study has been done, but there would be a little pedestrian bridge and, perhaps some board walk, so the cost would not be minimal. Getting a ballpark sense of the cost would require an inexpensive study which would be the first step.
- Who is going to pay for it? The path would be on state land under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The path is an element of DCR’s Master Plan for the reservation. However, there is no current plan for DCR to address this path, the DCR capital budget is severely constrained and there is a lot of competition for park funding. Some private funding participation, possibly from the Royal Belmont owners (who have not yet been consulted), may be necessary.
- Will the path reduce traffic in the area? I wouldn’t make that claim — the impact will be negligible on the huge flow of cut through traffic in Belmont and Cambridge.
- Is this pedestrian path redundant with the bike path? It was hard to see on the original image supplied in this post, but it should be clear from the more legible Google Map above that the path makes a different connection. It saves a long walk for those seeking to make this connection without going on the Route 2 ramp. The path length is .387 miles while connecting the same two points through Alewife is 1.54 miles.
- The tunnel under the tracks by Alexander Avenue is more important. Agreed. That project is well is underway.
- Will this path attract homeless encampments? Not likely. The area it traverses is very wet.
- Will this path be plowed? Probably not. The intention is that it would be unpaved, so not really plowable. Additionally, DCR’s plowing budget is limited and we have never been able to get them to consistently plow the main Fitchburg bike path. So, it is likely that in the winter, the path would require boots.
- Does building this path necessitate closing other trails? No.
- What are the impacts on wildlife and on wetlands? Good questions. We do not want to further fragment the forest habitat or create impervious surface. That argues for a fairly modest unpaved path.
Based on the initial level of neighborhood interest, I will try to get some more definition for this proposal and consult further with the neighborhood and with the town and the state. We should remain open to alternative positions for the path that might be equally desirable as connections, but less disruptive to abutters and/or to wildlife.