By Peter Sutton
2018 marked a milestone for Bike to the Sea (B2C) as it celebrated 25 years in existence with the most significant development to date towards completing the Northern Strand Community Trail.
In February, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the commitment of $1.5 million to fund designs for the Northern Strand in Everett, Lynn, Malden, Revere, and Saugus. The funding, awarded through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Gateway City Parks Program, enables the design of the trail, development of bid-ready construction documents, and receipt of all necessary construction permits.
In more plain terms, these three crucial steps in the trail building process will be fully funded (at no cost to five trailside communities) with an additional much larger dollar amount to be set aside in the near future for the actual construction.
Upon its anticipated completion in 2020, the trail will finally span ten total miles through the communities of Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus and Lynn along the rail bed of the former Saugus Branch Railroad.
The Northern Strand project is a cooperative effort involving funding and support from the Solomon Foundation and the Barr Foundation, and is a partnership between the Commonwealth’s MassTrails Team, the Foundations, the five communities, and Bike to the Sea.
A public process to discuss the project and its design were held throughout each community in two separate rounds of meetings held in June and November. It is anticipated that construction on sections of the trail can begin in 2019 with an additional allocation of $11 million from EEA.
Bike to the Sea is thrilled to work with the Gateways Cities Program as well as landscape architects Brown, Richardson + Rowe and engineering consultants Stantec to make our long-term vision of creating new scenic open space for all to enjoy a reality.
The completion of the Northern Strand will bring connectivity, economic development and safer, healthy active lifestyles to the communities of Lynn, Saugus, Revere, Malden and Everett. More details of each community’s design meetings are below.
In addition to this blockbuster news, other memorable events this year included our annual April Fools Ride that attracted more than 40 riders despite 40 degree temperatures. Bike to the Sea Day in June was also a hit, with more than 120 riders of all ages taking part; and Bike to the Sea and Night Shift Brewing co-hosted the annual Fall Colors Ride in late October.
Bike to the Sea also partnered with various community groups to host clean-ups along the trail in the spring and fall. Using grant funding, professional landscapers were also brought into service for extensive tree trimming, mowing and invasive plant removal.
Bike to the Sea board members also stepped up public outreach to neighboring towns, generating sizable interest in Somerville at the annual Baystate Bike Month kickoff party in May and by promoting the organization at the 25th Anniversary of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway held this past September in Lexington.
Finally B2C’s annual year-end meeting in November was notable for two different presentations: The first highlighting work being done to create the ArtLine in Malden with the intent of expanding local works of art throughout the trail in Everett, Revere, Saugus and Lynn.
Galen Mook, the new Executive Director of MassBike, also discussed ways in which his statewide organization could help Bike to the Sea on future initiatives involving education, advocacy, and access to grants.
Highlights by town include:
As part of a prior agreement, current owners of the Gateway Mall have begun work with the City and the developers of the adjacent casino to complete a key connection of the Northern Strand Trail, the state Department of Environmental Protection ruled recently.
All three parties are making final decisions on the best ways to bring the trail from its current terminus at West/ Wellington Streets southward to the Mystic River adjacent to the Encore Boston Harbor Casino. Additional new design features for the Northern Strand through Everett can be found here.
The November design meeting addressed the legality of vehicles using Prescott Street as it currently crosses the trail. One recommendation (not included in the link) as part of the final design proposes constructing metal bollards that could be locked/unlocked by emergency response vehicles in addition to mountable barriers that regular cars would not be able to traverse.
In a separate project, Encore is also advancing the design for building a bike/pedestrian bridge over the Mystic River that would connect the Northern Strand Trail to Boston and Somerville paths.
This year’s Fall Colors Ride highlighting trail connections through Everett, Medford and Somerville was once again co-sponsored by our friends at Night Shift Brewery and featured a newly paved path alongside the Malden River’s west bank as part of the Route 16 Woods Memorial Bridge reconstruction project.
Safe connections to the Northern Strand as Malden redevelops its downtown remained priorities as witnessed by Exchange Street’s improvement project.
As part of MassDOT’s Complete Streets funding program, Malden received nearly $375,000 for traffic calming and intersection improvements. Upon completion, the five intersection and two corridor improvement projects will address safety concerns and access for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. One of those projects is the Main/Charles street intersection adjacent to the Northern Strand Trail.
Improving the safety of trail users through Malden was a high priority at the second design meeting held in the fall.New design features for the Northern Strand through Malden can be found here, courtesy of landscape architects Brown, Richardson + Rowe and engineering consultants Stantec.
Bike to the Sea is also closely monitoring future developments along the proposed Malden River Greenway. This effort – stretching through Everett, Malden and Medford – would form a critical connection between the Northern Strand and the Malden River. In a major recent development, the Department of Environmental Protection has required that National Grid build and maintain a 10-foot wide half-mile waterfront path along its property situated in Malden and Everett.
Plans to pave the Revere section of the trail include environmental precautions to protect the Rumney Marsh there. Environmental permitting and wetlands flagging was conducted by Stantec over the summer to ensure compliance with EPA and local conservation commission standards.
When bridge work on Route 1 damaged the trail this fall, Bike to the Sea came to rescue and rolled the rough and rocky surface smooth with several new inches of stone dust.
New welcome trailside sites include the Harmon Street Playground, constructed in record time this past June. The City’s Revere on the Move initiative also enlisted students and the Lynn Raw Arts organization to remove graffiti from the Route 1 underpass and replace it with some truly beautiful and inspired mural work.
New design features for the Northern Strand through Revere include a bocce ball court and can be found here.
During our April spring clean-up event, our partners from the Saugus River Watershed Council provided flowers to create a garden along the Northern Strand near the Lynn line.
Using Recreational Trails Program grant funding, professional landscapers were brought into service over the summer and fall for extensive tree trimming, mowing and invasive plant removal throughout much of the trail running through Saugus.
Despite legitimate safety concerns, residents came out in force in support of advancing the Northern Strand during the two design review meetings held in 2018. Many residents lobbied for substantial upgrades in all streets crossings, many which experience high speeds as well as high volumes, such as Central Street. Adding flashing signs, stop lights, and pedestrian lights are all expected to be deployed in various locations.
New design features for the Northern Strand through Saugus can be found here.
Of all five trailside communities, the City of Lynn experienced the most attention in 2018 with no less than four concurrent planning studies being conducted regarding its future development.
The Northern Strand design meetings were both well-attended and well-received with virtually no opposition to future trail development.
Designs for the first segment, from the Saugus line to the Market Basket can be found here.
A separate planning study by Mayor McGee’s office – extending the trail through downtown Lynn to the waterfront – also hosted two rounds of public meetings in August and December and generated much positive input in potentially transforming Lynn into a much more bike and pedestrian-friendly city. Preliminary designs of these plans courtesy of Kittelson + Associates can be found here.
In December, the City’s Economic Development arm presented on its revised Waterfront Master Plan – building off of the 2007 Waterfront Master Plan, the ongoing Open Space Master Plan and recent development and public realm improvement proposals (including the Northern Strand) to create a framework that enables implementation.
Finally, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is finalizing its own study on imagining the future of West Lynn, including path connections. So much potential finally being realized.