The DCR Blue Heron Trail will someday extend from the Charles River Reservation at Watertown Square to Millennium Park in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood. Large portions of the trail are complete, but significant gaps remain. Work is underway to develop a plan to close the largest gap, the proposed Riverside Greenway near the Mass Pike in Newton.
This map shows completed sections of the trail in blue, and proposed trails in red. Click on any info link to learn more about this part of the trail.
Map data copyright © 2019 Google
View the entire route in Google Maps.
Details on Specific Segments of the Blue Heron Trail
Blue Heron Trail: Connections to the Upper Falls Greenway
The end of the Upper Falls Greenway is on the railroad embankment leading to an abandoned bridge over the river. A steep, rough path leads down from the Greenway to the end of the trail that goes to the Upper Falls Riverwalk (formerly called the Charles River Pathway Conservation Area).
In February 2018, the Newton Conservation Commission submitted a proposal to the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Program, under the auspices of the Division of Conservation and Recreation. If it had been successful, the grant funding would have been used to provide the long-sought connection from the southern side of the Greenway embankment down to the Charles River Path. In 2021, the City of Newton began a project using city funds to build this stairway.
On the northern side of the Greenway, a set of stairs was built in 2022 that provides access down to the public easement, where a trail now connects through a new gate into Bobby Braceland Park, which is not far from Hemlock Gorge. In addition, a trail was built close to the river underneath the bridge, so that the trail to Braceland now connects directly to the Upper Falls Riverwalk, without the need to climb up to the Greenway embankment.
The construction of the stairways and the trail along the easement has created a continuous trail from Hemlock Gorge all the way to the Blue Heron trailhead at the Needham end of the Needham Street bridge, with only two short diversions on city sidewalks.
Stitching Walking Trails Together, from Village 14
Blue Heron Trail: From Highland Avenue to Kendrick Street in Needham
This section of the trail is maintained by DCR.
An abandoned railroad bridge leads from Christina Street across the Charles River, where it connects with the DCR trail system. In connection with its proposed development on the west side of Needham Street, the Northland Investment Corporation has purchased property on the east side of Needham Street, opposite where a spur of the Upper Falls Greenway reaches Needham Street. The City of Newton, the Town of Needham, and Northland have begun discussion of the feasibility of extending the trail from Needham Street along the former railroad right-of-way to the bridge over the Charles, and restoring the bridge for pedestrian use.
In February 2021, the Newton Conservation Office reported the following: “The City applied for and received a Fiscal Year 2020 MassTrails grant to conduct a feasibility study on the abandoned rail bridge that crosses the Charles River (between Newton and Needham) from the Barry Price Center parking lot on Christina Street. The study will help determine what work needs to be done to establish a fully accessible, bicycle-pedestrian bridge to assist commuters and provide recreational access to the DCR trails on the Needham side of the river. We are moving forward with VHB, Inc. to conduct the feasibility study over the next several months. ” Read more about this study on this website and on the City of Newton website.
In November 2022, the state legislature appropriated $1.25 million to build a new pedestrian bridge across the Charles to replace the old railroad bridge.
Blue Heron Trail: Helen Heyn Conservation Area
The Blue Heron Trail passes through the Helen Heyn Conservation Area. However, because two streams cross the trail, it was necessary to divert the trail through parking lots and onto Wells Avenue in order to cross the streams. Building a new trail that avoided the parking lots and road would require the construction of boardwalks and bridges through wetlands and over the streams.
Map images are from the City of Newton GIS system.
A walk along this part of the trail was described in the Massachusetts Sierran in 2004.