The core idea is really simple. The eastern Massachusetts urban metro area is blessed with over 110 miles of long, tree-lined paths along its rivers and harbor, as well as through its parks and water-shed highlands – greenways -- many designed a century ago by Frederick Law Olmsted and his associates. The Charles River’s Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path. The fabulous Emerald Necklace. The Mystic River paths. The Neponset Trail. The HarborWalk. And more. But, although each piece is much used and loved, it’s all cut up into separate, stand-alone blips. Wouldn’t it be great if they were connected into a network, and extended into as many neighborhoods and areas as possible! We’d have a series of linked greenway corridors crisscrossing and connecting the entire region – improving mobility and access to jobs, reducing congestion and pollution, increasing green and family-friendly play space, and more.
That was, and is, the goal of the four-year-old Emerald Network initiative, a project of LivableStreets. Full disclosure – I’m one of the project founders and am still on the Steering Committee. And, because of that, I’m happy to be able to say that the effort seems to be paying off – over 50 additional miles have been constructed or are in process. Of the eight projects our Greenway Partners have proposed, five have been taken up by the local municipality, moving from community dream to city plans. Of course, we rely on a huge ad hoc alliance of local activists, planning firm volunteers and community experts, government agencies, funders, student project teams, and politicians. But the real pleasure comes from the details.Read more
During the early years of automobile ascendancy, New York’s Robert Moses perfected the strategy of using the public desire for parks as a wedge for the creation of “parkways” that were actually an early version of a regional highway system. In Massachusetts, the Olmsted-derived Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) -- previously solely focused on preserving water-shed forests, beaches, and parks -- saw this as an opportunity to turn the narrow corridors between its “reservations” into a similar network of higher-capacity roads in the metropolitan region. At stake was the enormous power that came from giving out the huge construction project contracts.Read more