There was a lot to celebrate in East Boston last Wednesday as community activists joined city and state officials to officially mark the completion of the long anticipated East Boston Greenway Extension design plan.
“This is a huge win for the community,” said AirInc.’s Chris Marchi who has worked tirelessly with other activists like Gail Miller to get the small stretch of 25-foot corridor. “East Boston will become one of the only urban communities with the unique feature of having one linear park system that will connect one waterfront to the next.”
The corridor was a piece of land taken by Massport in the 1960’s as part of Logan Airport’s expansion but on Wednesday Eastie welcomed it back at ceremony inside the Bremen Street Park.
Massport’s board voted in August to approve the community and city’s request to use a small stretch of Massport owned property that use to be part of the famed Wood Island Park in order to connect the Bremen Street Park with a greenway path that will extend to Constitution Beach.
The board’s vote was historic and significant, as it marked the first time land taken in the 1960’s by eminent domain had been given back to Eastie.
Greenway Extension proponents, in return for support for a Bus Depot at Logan, fought for the right to use a 25-foot corridor between the proposed Logan Bus Depot and the community as a way to connect Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach. This would once and for all connect waterfront parks in the southern part of the neighborhood with parks and airport edge buffers in the northern part of Eastie. This will allow for one continuous park system and allow adults and children to ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade or take part in other leisurely activities without being dependent on busy neighborhood streets like Bennington Street.
“There was a time when people said, it’s not going to be done,” said Mayor Thomas Menino at the event. “We can’t do it because of this reason or that reason. Well, folks, it’s easy to overcome those reasons when you sit with the mayor, and the mayor says, ’It’s going to get done.’ ”
Senator Anthony Petruccelli and his colleagues in the state and city applauded the efforts of the community.
“This was a community driven process,” said Petruccelli. “Two years ago when I first met with AirInc.’s Chris Marchi and Gail Miller and heard their plan I knew this was something we had to get done and get it done in the near future.”
Massport’s Interim CEO Dave Mackey said he was well aware of the history between Massport and community activists and said that sometimes the Port Authority has to consider ways to soften its impacts on its neighbors.
“We recently broke ground on the Marty Coughlin By-Pass Road that will take airport-related traffic out of Day Square and now we celebrate another milestone in softening the buffer between us (Logan) and what we have to do as an airport and the needs and wants of the community.”
In April at a Boston Conservation Commission hearing, the Commission reviewed Massport’s permit application for a proposed Green Bus Depot at Logan International Airport and voted to grant an Order of Conditions (wetland permit) for the project.
At the hearing, the commissioners applauded the efforts made to date to advance the greenway connector and voted to approve a permit with the proviso that Massport continue to work with City of Boston agencies and residents on the planning of a greenway connection to link Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach and other resource areas. Massport was also required to appear before the Commission within 30-days to provide a progress report on the greenway connection.
The Commission initially refused to sign off on Massport’s plans to construct a Bus Depot in Logan’s Northwest Service Area until it sat down with proponents of the greenway extension plan.
Over the past few months, Mayor Thomas Menino, along with City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Senator Anthony Petruccelli, and Representative Carlo Basile, joined community members like Marchi and Gail Miller to engage Massport in a planning effort to connect the greenway.
At the request of the Mayor and elected officials, a collaborative effort was developed between Massport and staff from city agencies to assess pathway design options that would address public safety, airport security and community access to their open space resources.
This work ultimately lead to the Massport Board’s vote over the summer to approve the community’s plans.
“East Boston residents have long sought to connect their public spaces from Piers Park to Belle Isle Marsh,” said Menino. “Over the past several months city hall planners have worked hand in hand with Massport and community leaders to extend the East Boston greenway, connecting the Bremen Street Park to Wood Island Marsh and Constitution Beach, and enable residents to bike or walk on a continuous pathway across East Boston. I am confident that the process is now in place to realize the full vision and potential of a continuous East Boston Greenway.”