By Peter Sutton
Bike to the Sea, Inc. Board Member
From new funding sources and partnerships to several high-profile events, 2016 marked another banner year for Bike to the Sea and the Northern Strand Community Trail (NSCT).
With the existing 7.5 miles of continuous trail now open through Everett, Malden, Revere and Saugus, steady progress was made with the city of Lynn in developing the final section there. In September, the first annual Community Day Bash opened the first path section in Lynn with an unveiling of a large mural, designed and painted by teens at Raw Art Works.
Other memorable events this year included Bike to the Sea Day in June, with more than 130 riders participating; the Bike to the Sea and Town of Saugus hosting a packed forum in March highlighting the trail’s value as a non-motorized regional network and its potential benefits to elected officials, municipal staff and advocates throughout all five communities.
In addition, The Baker-Polito Administration through the Department of Conservation and Recreation once again awarded Bike to the Sea a $50,000 Recreational Trails grant earmarked for further improvements to the Saugus segment of the trail. The NSCT was also one of only a handful of projects to be awarded funding from the Solomon Foundation – champions of Greater Boston’s parks and greenways, and its unique contribution to the quality of urban life.
Highlights by town included:
Development of the Wynn Resorts Casino took a step forward in 2016 and with it, funding to study the extension of the NSCT to the existing and proposed network of trails along the Mystic River. A $150,000 grant awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will study the potential extension of the trail for recreational use as well as casino and shopping access.
This year’s Fall Colors Ride was also a huge success – co-sponsored by Night Shift Brewing with more than fifty riders taking part.
The paved trail also continues to act as a catalyst for new development, with a 200-unit residential development completed on Waters Avenue as well as the arrivals of Bone-Up Brewing Co. and Short Path Distillery – two new additions to the burgeoning “fermentation district.” A new ADA-accessible ramp was also constructed at the end of Norman Street providing direct access from these fine establishments to the trail. Stop by and sample some locally-sourced craft brews or spirits at the end of your next ride.
The city continued to leverage the path as a key asset in unlocking further development, with new housing and retail being constructed trailside through Malden Center.
The NSCT also had a ripple effect in raising awareness for one of Malden’s other great recreational assets – the Malden River, with most not even realizing the close proximity of the two resources – only 400 feet apart at Canal Street.
Bike to the Sea began partnering with various advocacy groups, the Friends of the Malden River, the Mystic River Watershed Association and the Solomon Foundation, helping to solidify future greenway planning along the river.
The Malden Community Garden between Faulkner and Bryant Streets expanded its footprint to nearly double its former size, and nearby a new street connection to the trail was established at Harding Lane.
Last but not least, Mayor Gary Christenson formally established the city’s Complete Streets Task Force, potentially providing up to $400,000 of MassDOT funding worth of upgrades to bicycle, pedestrian and transit improvements including potential upgrades to the trail. Bike to the Sea Project Manager Clay Larsen was one of the first appointments to the task force, bringing his expertise in planning and design to make for a safer, better-connected Malden.
The Baker-Polito Administration through the Department of Conservation and Recreation once again awarded Bike to the Sea a $50,000 Recreational Trails grant earmarked for further improvements to the Revere and Saugus segments of the trail.
Tasks included updates to trail entrance gateways, trail shoulder improvements and tree work, installation of signs and park benches and training and use of community youth corps and volunteers for trail clean-up events, maintenance and plantings.
Grant funding was put to great use regarding all aspects of trail development this past year on the one-mile segment that skirts Rumney Marsh. The most visible feature to the NSCT infrastructure came in the installation of a pedestrian-activated rectangular rapid-flash beacon where the trail crosses Salem Street.
Cyclists and pedestrians now have a far safer crossing along this busy stretch of roadway due to the new high-visibility strobe-like warning to drivers. Security gates were also installed at this location to prevent any motorized vehicles from accessing the trail illegally.
Hydroseeding – a planting process that uses a slurry of seed and mulch – was deployed as an erosion control technique along the path in addition to routine maintenance grading. Wildflower meadow installation also took place along portions of the trail to complement the existing marshland surrounding the area. Benches were also installed to take in the sweeping views for all to enjoy.
On March 18, 2016, for the first time in ten years, more than forty residents, advocates and officials from all five municipalities of the trail assembled in the town library to discuss plans for completing the trail in Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus and Lynn.
Elected officials in attendance – including State Senator Thomas M. McGee – supported extending the trail through Lynn to Nahant Beach, while a presentation given by MassBike highlighted the trail’s potential draw as an economic catalyst and job creator.
Other notable enhancements made this past year included trail mileage markers being installed by a local Boy Scout troupe. Lastly, over the summer Saugus honored Purple Heart recipients by dedicating a portion of the trail to them on Sunday, August 7, 2016. Veterans – including Bike to the Sea board member Gus Fish – attended the ceremony and were honored for their military service.
(This video tells the story of Bike to the Sea’s involvement with the Lynn community to use art to draw attention to trail efforts there.)
Bike to the Sea made great advances this past year with local public officials and neighborhood advocates in laying the necessary groundwork for future developments. A major milestone of this ongoing effort was the first annual Lynn Community Day Bash held in September.
Bike to the Sea coordinated with the local community group, One Community, One Voice, in the unveiling of a large trailside mural, designed and painted by teens at Raw Art Works. The mural resides on Neptune Court along the first open path section in Lynn – the future route of the NSCT/ West Lynn Community Path.
At the invitation of Mayor Kennedy, the Solomon Foundation then advised the Community Development office and civic leaders on how to undertake a planning study for the West Lynn Community Path. It is hoped that sufficient funding can be identified for this process to move forward in 2017.
Bike to the Sea’s end of the year annual meeting – hosted by the Lynn Museum – was also notable as being the largest, most well-attended event in the group’s 25 year history! More than 75 attendees enjoyed a potluck dinner learning how future trail development could improve Lynn’s economy and public health. The meeting also featured the expertly-crafted mini-documentary “An Artful Alliance” by Bike to the Sea webmaster Mark Micheli.