(Image courtesy DCR)
The Department of Conservation and Recreation updated Mattapan residents last night on the latest plan for the Neponset River Trail connection between Central Avenue and Mattapan Station.
The revised plan incorporates comments received from residents on the five options presented at the previous meeting, in May 2010.
City and state officials, including Senator Brian Joyce, Representative Russell Holmes, Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, and City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo also attended the meeting.
“A year ago there were five plans presented, and we know there were issues raised about them…but DCR took the time and listened,” Dorcena Forry said.
At the Tuesday evening at the Foley Senior Center, individuals with the DCR and their consultant team praised the project and said that although Milton and Mattapan will see the direct benefits, the connection helps all surrounding communities.
“We are talking about something that has major regional significance,” said Joe Orfant, Chief of Bureau of Resource Planning and Protection for the DCR.
When completed, the project will connect an eight-mile trail between the Blue Hills Reservation and Boston Harbor.
The plan proposes building a portion of the trail on the Milton side of the Neponset River running from Central Avenue, then crossing over the Neponset River near the Ryan Park.
The trail would continue to run along the river on the Mattapan side to the Mattapan MBTA station. It then would cross over the train track using an elevated foot bridge, and then end on Blue Hill Avenue.
Along with adding connections, the DCR plans to renovate the building located at the portion of the trail that ends on Blue Hill Avenue, making it a welcome center and ranger station.
Although the program has faced funding issues, the DCR hopes to secure a $10 million federal grant in the fall, which would allow it to complete the work. In addition to federal funds, the DCR said it would also contribute $2.5 million for the project.
Even though the plan was met with much enthusiasm at the meeting, residents in attendance still had questions about the trail, including on safety and accessibility.
Residents asked what the DCR would do to improve lighting along the trail and what could be done to help residents from both sides of the river gain access.
Deneen Crosby, a consultant working with the DCR, said cameras would be installed near bridges and points of low visibility, but said that the trail would not be lit up at night except at certain points. Crosby also assured residents that future connections would be considered. The plan allows for six connections on this portion of the trail, with five of them on the Mattapan side of the river.
Many residents were also curious about the possibility of a connection at the Valley Road MBTA station on the Milton side of the river. Although DCR officials acknowledged that it was a possibility, the steep incline of the grade would make it difficult and costly.
Along with connections, one resident voiced the desire to develop more than a single straight path.
“I wish you would consider building on both sides of the river and making it a loop,” he said.
Others at the meeting asked how the DCR planned to control bike and pedestrian traffic.
“We’re balancing trying to make a path that is wide enough for people walking and biking and trying to minimize the impacts on vegetation and tree removal,” said Crosby.
Although the paths would be roughly 10 feet wide, Crosby said there are no current plans to designate bike lanes on the trail.
Currently, the DCR is accepting comments on the plan for 30 days. After the agency receives community feedback and incorporates comments, it will be back before the community to discuss the next steps of the project.
The DCR said it hopes to complete construction by fall 2013.
For more information on the project, visit the DCR’S website.
Email Patrick Ross, email@example.com