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Keep bike trail near Neponset River, selectmen urge

Posted by Johanna Seltz  August 24, 2010 09:32 AM

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Milton selectmen have asked the state to avoid Capen Street -- and stay close to the river -- when building the next section of the Neponset River Bike Trail.

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The board agreed with residents of Capen Street who were worried that siting the route near their homes and along the MBTA trolley tracks would create problems with noise and parking.

"Where it is possible to place the trail along the river and away from residences, we believe this is preferable to placing the trail along the rail line, close to residences," the board wrote the Department of Conservation and Recreation in a letter dated Aug. 16.

The 10-foot-wide trail now winds along the Neponset River from Pope John Paul II Park in Dorchester to Central Avenue in Milton, where it ends abruptly. The path picks up again in Mattapan Square and continues -- with some construction still underway -- to Hyde Park.

The choices for filling the gap include building a path on the Mattapan side of the river, building on the Milton side, or building a bridge so bicyclists can cross and travel on both sides. One proposed route includes two bridges; two other routes have a single bridge in the design.

Some neighbors in the Capen Street area objected to the routes that cross their street -- arguing for a more eco-friendly path that wouldn’t entail blasting rock and cutting down trees near their homes. Others favored the route crossing Capen Street as the safest for bicyclists.

In their letter, the selectmen asked the state to look at a route suggested by former town administrator John Cronin, which starts in Milton at Central Avenue, quickly crosses over to the Boston side before Capen Street, and then comes back to the Milton side near Mattapan Square.

“We are very aware that Boston officials feel that routing a substantial part of the bike path on the Boston side, including alongside Ryan Playground, will provide better access for Boston residents and is the fair choice, given that part of the path is already in Milton. We agree,” the letter said.

Selectmen urged the state to work with the MBTA to find a safe way of navigating the area in Mattapan Square.

The letter also said that there was “widespread support” for the bike path in Milton and that “many comments have been received about how much everyone enjoys the trail from Central Avenue to John Paul Park and beyond.”

The state has said it has money to plan and design the trail, but not for the actual construction.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seelenfam@verizon.net.

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