There are not too many people that will sacrifice time away from family to volunteer for the better good of the community. In East Boston there are a select few but in 2012 local environmental activist Chris Marchi stood out.
For the better part of two years, Marchi led a group of activists to get a small stretch of land measuring 25 ft. from Massport so the community could finally connect its park system from one end of Eastie to the other.
The corridor was a piece of land taken by Massport in the 1960’s as part of Logan Airport’s expansion but in 2011, as result of Marchi’s persistence and determination, convinced Massport to give the land back so the East Boston Greenway could extend to Constitution Beach.
Massport’s board voted in August 2011 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 the 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.
Marchi and 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.
In April 2011 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 Marchi and other proponents of the greenway extension plan.
For the rest of 2011 Marchi gained support of Mayor Thomas Menino, City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Senator Anthony Petruccelli, and Representative Carlo Basile 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 to approve the community’s plan set in motion by Marchi.
After breaking ground on the extension in November 2011, Marchi spent 2012 helping to plan and develop the corridor as well as adjacent open spaces on Neptune Road. He also spent time envisioning more and better use for passive parks along the greenway.
Once completed, the greenway extension through former Massport land will be a huge win for the neighborhood and will begin to reconnect a neighborhood that has been sectioned off by state transportation infrastructure.