Upper Charles River Reservation 2003 Project Update

By Dan Driscoll
Director of Recreational Facilities

Background: In 1994 the MDC began preparation of a master plan and design for a major section of the Upper Charles River Reservation. The master plan project area travels from Galen Street in Watertown Square to Commonwealth Avenue in Newton and Weston. This area is approximately 5.75 miles in length, over ten miles of river banks.

The primary goal of the master plan is to develop a continuous pedestrian pathway system that links the Upper Charles River Reservation and its surrounding communities (e.g. Watertown, Waltham, Newton, Weston) with the Charles River Basin pathway system in Cambridge and Boston. Implementation of this vision is providing Metropolitan Boston with one of the finest and longest urban river greenway corridors in the country.

Phase 1 and Phase 2 Construction (has been completed): As part of the master plan scope of work MDC’s Consultant team prepared final construction documents for three key sections within the master plan area. Two separate federal ISTEA grants and matching state funds provided the funding for the construction of these three segments. All three of these sections have been completed and are open to the public. The sections include: Watertown between Galen Street and Bridge Street; Newton – Galen St. to Bridge St.; and Waltham – Farwell St. to Elm St… All three have been a great success story in reconnecting the public to the River and its natural resources.

Phase 3A, 3A-1 & 3B Design and Construction (new Segments): With the completion of nearly four new miles of river corridor greenways along the Upper Charles River Reservation, the MDC is closer than ever to accomplishing the vision and dream of creating continuous public access and green space along most of the MDC’s Upper Charles River Reservation. Phase 3A, 3A-1 and 3B include the five critical missing links along this section of the Charles greenway system. Descriptions of these segments follow.

Phase 3A: MDC began construction on 3A in the winter, 2003, and anticipates completing the project by late fall, 2004.

3A: Bridge Street in Newton to Farwell Street in Waltham (traveling through Watertown). This segment of the Reservation is the critical missing link needed to provide the desired continuous linear connections. From Bridge Street to Cheesecake Brook in Newton there was an overgrown, somewhat inaccessible stretch of MDC wooded riverbank. The MDC designed a new greenway through these woods, up to Cheesecake Brook. At the Brook a new distinguished footbridge (10 feet wide, and approximately 140 long) will cross over the Charles River connecting to woodland on the opposite bank in Watertown. At this point a new path is being constructed out to Farwell Street in Waltham. To properly honor this beautiful section of river corridor, all pathways will be soft surface (i.e. no asphalt) or boardwalk.

3A-1: This segment will be bid some time in spring, 2004, with construction beginning in fall, 2004. Construction will be complete by winter, 2005. Location of 3A-1: Elm Street to Landry Park in downtown Waltham. This segment, approximately 500 feet in length, will travel from the northeast corner of the Elm Street Bridge to the MDC’s Landry Park by the Charles River Museum of Industry. This new path will feature a cantilevered boardwalk off the side of the Museum of Industry Mill, and it will intersect with an existing MDC path in Landry Park and eventually go out to Moody Street in downtown Waltham.

Phase 3B (three segments): Construction began in August, 2003, and is scheduled to be completed by winter, 2004. Following is a description of the three segments included in 3B.

3B-1. Galen Street in Watertown to new Greenway entrance off California Street. Currently people must travel on a narrow, paved sidewalk to get to a new greenway entrance. The MDC is constructing a new path through an existing MDC park, building a small bridge over a brook, and connecting to an existing greenway. This will provide a much safer, more scenic alternative from Watertown Square along the Charles River. The existing footbridge by Watertown Dam is being fully restored and painted as part of this phase.

3B-2. Woerd Avenue Boat Launch. This is the only formal boat launch in the Charles River Lakes District, and it currently is a rutted dirt lot with a broken up launch and eroding river banks. Full restoration is under way for this area. Plans include a new greenway and restoration of neglected MDC parkland, providing a key link back to Prospect Street in Waltham. In addition, there will be a new double sized motor boat launch, a new canoe launch, restored parking lot, upgraded drainage and extensive plantings.

3B-3. Moody Street Entrance/Connection. A walkway is being developed close to the historic sluiceway by the Moody Street mill. This will improve the views of the water inlet as well as the revamped Moody Street Bridge. A buffer strip planted with shade trees and grass will separate the walk and existing driveway. The new walk will connect with an existing walk leading to a fish ladder and small park. We are providing crosswalk locations and HC curb ramps to make the new walk fully accessible. The sluice will be restored, invasive plants removed, and interpretive elements developed. The MDC’s maintenance walk over the Moody Street Dam will be restored and painted. New park entrances will be developed at Moody Street and Prospect Street entry points.

Phases 3A, 3A-1 and 3B combined include some of the most critical greenway links along the Charles River Reservation that DCR will build in this century. Please call Dan Driscoll with any questions or additional information requests (617) 722-5268. Thanks for your interest.