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Somerville taking it to the streets

Posted by Marcia Dick  May 19, 2010 10:03 AM

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The route for Saturday's Blueback Herring River Route.

The areas north of Route 93 seem cut off entirely from the rest of Somerville - unless you're driving. But when it comes to the Mystic River, it turns out you can get there from here. The city is showing off its new Blueback Herring River Route - a safe pedestrian/bicyclist pathway from Foss Park to the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse - as part of its SomerStreets initiative, which kicks off Saturday.

One weekend day per month, the city will shut down key streets and set up activities to showcase a particular part of the city. Saturday's SomerStreets event includes jumping rope, relay races, face painting, and canoe trips from the boathouse. Participants can collect stamps on a "passport" to win a prize.

The SomerStreets project builds off Shape Up Somerville and other city fitness initiatives; officials are collaborating with the environmental group Groundwork Somerville. The day out accomplishes several city goals, said Kathleen Ziegenfuss, senior planner for transportation and infrastructure: It promotes healthy living, improves transportation, and gets people out "to enjoy summer in Somerville."

The Somerville Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development located the Blueback Herring River Route with funding from a Massachusetts Environmental Trust grant, Ziegenfuss said. Since there's a tangle of cloverleafs under 93 at Foss Park, the path takes the scenic route to get to the scenic route, crossing into the Ten Hills neighborhood via Shore Drive. From there, people can follow a 3.7-mile loop that meanders through the Mystic River Reservation in Medford.

Eventually the Ten Hills segment will connect to the parkland behind Assembly Square as well. Developers are creating an underpass for Route 28.

Ellin Reisner of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership looks forward to those improvements, as well as new, safer passageways under Route 93 from her neighborhood of East Somerville, on the far side of the McGrath Highway from Foss Park. Currently "it's a challenge." But once you get to the Mystic, nature abounds; last weekend "I saw two black swans," Reisner said. 

Learn more at www.somervillema.gov/somerstreets.

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