The 4.2 miles missing from the Neponset River Greenway Corridor that will connect the communities of Milton and Mattapan to the rest of the 9-mile bicycle and pedestrian path are one step closer to being finished.
A federal grant proposal for $13.1 million was submitted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation Monday and if accepted would fund two new bridges, boardwalks along the path, and repairs to buildings at two of the sites along the greenway.
The US Department of Transportation will review the application during the coming months and DCR expects a response back by early March. If the grant is approved, the DCR will fund a match of 25 percent or $4.3 million.
S.J. Port, spokeswoman for DCR, said that submitting the grant application felt to many like the end of a 20-year project was finally in sight.
“This has been almost 20 years in the making and since then we’ve jumped through a number of hoops,” Port said. “What we’ve come up with is a wonderful project that will both enhance the availability of green commuting and provide recreation for a community that might not otherwise have access.”
For one Mattapan resident, the recent issues with design are small in comparison to those raised during the last 18 years of discussions.
Vivien Morris, an advocate for the greenway, said Mattapan residents have always been in favor of the bikepath but it was difficult for the two communities to set aside opposition in favor of compromise.
“This project has brought to limelight just how distant these two communities that abut each other can be,” Morris said. “It was really sad to hear and see how easily people can parrot the worst of what they hear most often because of how our community is often viewed in the press.”
Currently 10,400 riders, walkers, and runners use the entire bikeway everyday despite areas that aren’t paved or safe. For bicycling advocate, Lee Toma, of Bike Milton, that is exactly why the grant is so necessary.
“Originally, the path was emptying out on River Street, which is a major safety concern, but the DCR made a lot of effort to make the overall design safer and more family-friendly,” Toma said. “Mothers and fathers are out there, shepherding kids; if they could stay along a trail it would be that much safer and easier.”
Morris is also hopeful that the project will move forward and provide Mattapan residents access to recreation the community desperately needs.
“When you can actually get to the river, it is absolutely lovely,” she said. “The first time I went to see it I thought, ‘Is this really my community?’ I didn’t think of this wondrous nature area as part of day-to-day life here in Mattapan.”
Natalie Feulner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.