Frontline Park: East Boston Greenway, Massachusetts
Each month, City Parks Alliance promotes an urban park that shows how parks and park leaders are on the forefront of creating healthier, more sustainable cities, and are succeeding in tough economic times. The Frontline Parks program showcases the most innovative and successful park projects and partnerships, as well as best practices in design, stewardship, programming, and fundraising.
The East Boston Greenway is a multi-use trail and linear park that was built along the path of a former Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) rail corridor. The greenway links several parks and natural areas, including Bremen Street Park, Piers Park, and Memorial Stadium, and consists of more than 60 acres of open space. It stretches several miles along some of the most scenic areas in the Boston metro area, allowing riders direct access to Constitution Beach.
After Conrail abandoned the railroad track, the alignment became an overgrown dumping ground, threatening public health and property values in the adjacent neighborhoods. Given the proximity to Logan International Airport, the city chamber of commerce advocated for the construction of a truck route to the airport, but that proposal did not receive much support from the community. At the time, East Boston was one of the most park-poor neighborhoods in the area, and walking or biking to the parks that did exist was often unsafe. A community-led discussion about what to do with the land laid the groundwork for the development of a new greenway.
Before the community could explore options for converting the land, they first had to acquire it. A partnership of open space advocates supported by the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, including Boston Natural Areas Network and the newly formed Friends of East Boston Greenway, worked together to obtain the initial 1.2 mile freight corridor from Conrail, who gifted the land for park purposes. The Trust for Public Land, another partner to local advocates, worked to secure funds from the Massachusetts Highway Department and the Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup costs, and transferred ownership of the corridor to Boston Parks & Recreation and Massport (which operates Logan Airport.) With the initial gift of land, the Greenway and new parks along the path were built with a mix of city, state, federal, and Massport funding.
The region’s Big Dig, a sprawling and ambitious public works project that took decades to complete, has allowed the city to reclaim land and reconnect neighborhoods that had long been isolated from one another by burying elevated highways and building a third harbor tunnel that emerges in East Boston. The East Boston Greenway allows for movement between Boston’s Inner Harbor and points west without having to set foot or wheel on the road. Not only does it link new, old, and improved parks together, the Greenway also allows access to three MBTA (The ‘T’) stations as well as Logan Airport. Access to transit, the waterfront, and new parks has increased the desirability of East Boston, attracting a steady stream of new residents and new development.
Go all in! Greater Boston has a remarkable legacy of advocating for open space. Community buy-in and a strong vision will attract support from public agencies and national open space advocates.
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Originally published at www.cityparksalliance.org.