Plan Protects Natural Resources, Increases Recreational Uses
The Mystic River on the Medford/Somerville line near MacDonald Park. Courtesy photo.
In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to environmental stewardship, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has released its Mystic River Master Plan. The plan provides a long-term framework for restoring and preserving areas along the river, protecting natural resources and wildlife habitats, and determining the areas most suitable and desirable for recreation, education, and preservation.
“By making preservation plans for this watershed, we ensure that its recreational space, wildlife habitat, and vital natural resources are protected for generations to come,” said Governor Patrick.
The plan was presented to the Mystic River Watershed Steering Committee today. The committee was convened in 2008 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to address the issues and needs of the communities and natural resources of the Mystic River Watershed. It has members from 22 organizations, including nonprofit community groups and local, state, and federal governmental agencies.
“The Mystic River Watershed is an important wildlife habitat that also provides vital opportunities for urban residents to connect with nature and engage in outdoor recreation activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and hiking,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. “This plan will make DCR’s Mystic River Reservation a gem among state park properties.”
The Master Plan was developed over several years, with the input and cooperation of municipalities, local and state officials, environmental and recreation organizations, area residents, and businesses along the river. An exhaustive public process also provided several opportunities for public input in the planning.
In developing the plan, DCR held two public meetings, and conducted several public charrettes and meetings with various stakeholder groups.
“DCR has listened to and taken seriously the thoughts, concerns, and interests of the public as the agency moved forward with this plan,” said DCR Commissioner Richard K. Sullivan Jr. “This comprehensive master plan will allow DCR to work closely with developers, municipalities, and other regulatory agencies to identify opportunities for public/private partnerships while preserving the natural integrity of the watershed.”
The Mystic River Reservation was one of the original five reservations delineated by what was then the Metropolitan Parks Commission in 1893. By the early 1900s, practically the entire length of the riverbanks along the Mystic River in Medford, Arlington, and Somerville had become public land. The Mystic Valley Parkway opened in 1897. The Mystic River watershed covers more than 75 square miles and 21 communities, from Reading to Boston Harbor.
The goals of the Master Plan include restoring the river banks to promote both increased recreational use and the ecological health of the river, developing a continuous multi-use pathway system along both banks of the river between the Harvard Avenue Bridge and the Malden Bridge, improving natural areas to protect and enhance wildlife habitats, increasing links to adjacent public open space and neighborhoods, and developing guidelines and techniques for managing and operating the parkland. Implementation of the overall plan will occur over a number of years, allowing immediate implementation of some recommendations outlined in the plan.
“I am very excited that the Mystic River Master Plan is being released,” said State Senator Patricia Jehlen. “The Mystic River is a very important waterway that has been largely neglected for a long time. It has been rewarding to work so closely with DCR, the Mystic River Watershed Association, and others to develop this plan to bring the Mystic back to what it should be.”
“With the Mystic River literally in my neighborhood, I am happy to announce, after a lot of hard work, the unveiling of the Mystic River Master Plan,” said State Representative Sean Garballey. “The Mystic River is one of the greatest natural resources in the Commonwealth, and hopefully, with the implementation of the Master Plan, we can take steps to protect this natural resource and work to improve it.”
Construction projects related to the reclamation of the Mystic River include DCR’s partnership with the City of Medford to restore the Condon Shell; the use of mitigation funds to restore the Amelia Earhardt Dam Basin parklands; and the $3.6 million federally funded Alewife Brook Greenway effort that will connect the Minuteman Bike Path and Alewife T Station to the Mystic River Reservation.
The Mystic River Master Plan is available for viewing on DCR’s website: www.mass.gov/dcr/masterPlans.htm.
– Information from Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)