Greenway plans need full sunlight

There’s a heightened sense of anticipation this week over an emerging state plan to expand and improve the Neponset Greenway, the five-mile trail along our waterfront that has been a huge success since its construction in the 1990s. There are still many unknown details this week as staffers at the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) attempt to cobble together a plan that will pass muster locally — and still succeed in a critical hurdle: securing federal grant money needed to pay for it.

There’s been plenty of time over the last several years to talk through a reasonable consensus about how to fill in the Greenway’s key missing links. The public has done its job: We’ve attended meetings, written letters, and done walk-throughs. Advocates and stakeholders have submitted their own plans. Now it’s time for state officials to reward that engagement by giving everyone the full details about its current plans, including a precise map of the Greenway’s expected route and details about how much it will cost.

A meeting has been set for August 30th to unveil the latest “compromise” plan for the one-mile Mattapan-Milton extension that has been the source of contention and delay in the last five years. This week, the Reporter also reports that a long-deferred pathway through the National Grid property — that includes the landmark gas tank on Commercial Point — will also be included in the next phase of Greenway work. All of this is contingent on the DCR winning a competitive $10 million “TIGER” grant from federal authorities— which is largely how the state paid for the existing Greenway trail in the 90s.

State officials say there’s great pressure on them to make sure that the grant proposal they submit in October is the best it can be. That’s a goal all of us share. This community has waited a long time for these improvements. The Neponset Greenway and the Harborwalk it connects to near Columbia Point are fantastic amenities that have greatly improved quality of life in this seaside neighborhood that for many decades was essentially walled off from its natural resources.

The best course for the Patrick administration to take right now is to make as much information about these plans public immediately to help expedite a process that will make the federal grant process work to our advantage. We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time to win this funding. The Greenway— and new parks along the Neponset– have transformed life for tens of thousands of people and the promise of extending that into Mattapan and improving the path in Dorchester should be the number one local priority for our leaders in state government.
-Bill Forry