Editorial: An early look at Walsh’s plan for a ‘Resilient Harbor’

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Walsh laid out a strategy for protecting the city’s waterfront communities— including Dorchester— from major flooding events and the longer-term impacts of rising sea levels.

“We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face,” the mayor told business leaders gathered for his annual speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

So what does this mean, specifically, for folks perched along the shores of Dorchester Bay?

First, the city will launch what it calls “Climate Ready Dorchester,” building off existing plans for a citywide approach to the problems. Morrissey Boulevard, already prone to flooding out at high tide, is at the top of the checklist of issues that have already been identified as keys “to create a resilient, more accessible Dorchester shoreline with increased connectivity.”

“Re-design Morrissey Boulevard to stop current and future flooding, and open up the waterfront,” reads a statement issued as part of the Resilient Boston Harbor plan on Wednesday.

Next up: “Complete the connection of the Neponset River Trail in Mattapan to the Harborwalk from Tenean Beach to Victory Park.”

Third on the punch list for Dot: “Work with UMass Boston to further open up the waterfront along Columbia Point for the residents of Dorchester.”

The mayor is also re-stating the goal of connecting “the Emerald Necklace from Franklin Park to Moakley Park along Columbia Road to increase access to the waterfront. $11 million will be allocated from sale of the Winthrop Square Garage for this project.”

Finally, the initiative intends to “work with residents on new and improved amenities for the neighborhood, including better public transit and improved roadway, pedestrian, and bike connections.”

The mayor’s broader, citywide plan still needs more in the way of specifics, especially on funding. Much of the burden for public improvements mentioned here— including Morrissey and the Greenway— are state assets, not city. In his speech, Walsh called on state and federal government “partners, as well as the private sector and non-profit and philanthropic stakeholders, to join the City in committing to make these necessary investments a reality.”

Still, we applaud team Walsh for leveraging Boston’s position and resources to make this a priority. We would like to see the Baker administration step up its efforts and level of urgency, too. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has been slow to regroup after a series of meetings last year to plan the latest designs of a Morrissey renovation; and while the Patrick administration pushed hard to get the necessary funds in place to finish missing-link Greenway phases in Mattapan and Milton, the Tenean stretch mentioned by the mayor this week has been slow to gain traction.

We’d also like to see more direct leadership from the mayor about exactly what sort of development he’d like to see along the Morrissey corridor and Port Norfolk, in particular. The city needs to give more precise direction to developers and neighbors who have been engaged in back-and-forth about the sorts of projects— density, height, and more— that are viable on a changing waterfront. We hope that this new Dorchester specific initiative will seek to meet that challenge head-on.

– Bill Forry

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