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Editorial: Best hope yet for completing the Greenway trail

The latest— and, we hope, the last— incarnation of the one-mile Neponset Greenway connection through Mattapan and Milton made its debut at a public meeting on Tuesday evening on River Street.

The design includes a compromise, cross-river bridge that will allow the Greenway trail to stretch across both Milton and Mattapan as its winds its way alongside the Neponset River between Blue Hill and Central avenues. It also includes an attractive, boardwalk-style flyover that will allow Greenway-users to avoid the trolley tracks near Mattapan station, a convergence that has been one of several sticking-points that has slowed this project’s progress in the past.

The feedback from the presentation has been overwhelmingly positive — even from certain quarters (this one included) that had grown frustrated with the drawn-out process that led to this plan. But, let there be no mistake: This project has the enthusiastic support of this community, which has been clamoring for a safe, equitable, beautiful route along our waterfront for generations.

Now is the time and this is the plan.

We hope that our state and federal officials will do everything in their power to clear the last formidable hurdle that stands in the way of extending the Greenway: federal funding. The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation — which has engineered this project to date— will apply for a so-called Tiger II grant — worth $10 million— to pay for the construction. If the grant is approved (the deadline is in October and the decision will be made by next spring) then this project could very well be completed by 2013.

Those of us who already use the Greenway trail and the Harborwalk in Dorchester know just how valuable these public amenities are — both to our personal quality of life in the city — and to the neighborhood as a whole. The renaissance along the Neponset and Dorchester Bay that has happened through the gradual reclamation of public lands stands as perhaps the most significant policy shift in this neighborhood over the last half-century. Reversing decades of industrial abuse along our shoreline, and dismantling man-made obstructions to our natural resources, are causes that require our steadfast attention and — as in the case of this one-mile Greenway connection— patience and perseverance.

Congratulations to the volunteer activists — particularly the Boston Natural Areas Network and the Neponset Greenway Council, who have carried this torch for many years— for their leadership in shepherding the project to this point. Well done, also, to our elected state officials and to their colleagues at the DCR and the MBTA for their collaborative spirit and expertise in designing the trail.
Now, let’s get together for the final push to make the best possible case for the federal grant that is essential for the Greenway’s completion.