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Greenway's 'Clippership Connector' Coming Together in Downtown Medford, Mass.

Wed June 05, 2024 - Northeast Edition #13
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The Clippership Connector is a half-mile, multi-use path that would be the final connection in a 10-mi. route running continuously through Medford Square, the Medford public middle schools, Riverbend Park and Macdonald Park. The project is being designed by the Crosby-Schlessinger-Smallridge (CSS) landscape architecture firm.
Map courtesy of Amber Christoffersen, Greenways Director, Mystic River Watershed Association
The Clippership Connector is a half-mile, multi-use path that would be the final connection in a 10-mi. route running continuously through Medford Square, the Medford public middle schools, Riverbend Park and Macdonald Park. The project is being designed by the Crosby-Schlessinger-Smallridge (CSS) landscape architecture firm.

This summer, workers are building a missing link along Massachusetts's Mystic River greenways that will bring the network of riverfront paths into downtown Medford, located north of Boston.

The Clippership Connector path is relatively short — only about a half-mile long — but it will give Medford a safe, relatively scenic way to get across Interstate 93, a major barrier in the city for pedestrians, and connect the downtown area with its riverfront parks and schools in the fast-growing districts near the Wellington Orange Line transit station.

The path will follow the northern bank of the Mystic River from Medford's Clippership Park before crossing under the freeway and connecting to the existing Riverbend Park path network behind Madeleine Dugger Andrews Middle School.

It also threads its way between several densely-packed and privately-owned properties, which created some challenging design constraints. At several points, the pathway will run along elevated boardwalks, like the one currently being constructed around the edge of the Medford Housing Authority's property just west of I-93, to minimize impacts to the riverbanks.

While it is common for people to start using new trails while they are still under construction, that is not really an option in Medford — at least for the time being. Contractors have lined the future trail with fencing, making it impossible to access while work is ongoing, according to StreetsblogMASS.

For those looking to walk or bike between Medford Square and the other existing Mystic River paths to the southeast, their best option is to take Riverside Avenue from Medford Square, then cut south on Freedom Way to access the riverfront behind the middle school.

Connector Links 10 Miles of Greenways in Five Cities

In October 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) presented its final plans for the Clippership Connector, but it was not until last fall that the agency and the city of Medford were finally able to celebrate the beginning of construction on the greenway.

The new trail is nearly a decade in the making and represents a partnership between the state, the city, local advocacy groups and private organizations.

When the link is completed, it will connect 10 mi. of contiguous greenways through the Mystic River Reservation, one of the original five reservations delineated by the Metropolitan Park Commission in 1893.

Located in five communities — Boston, Arlington, Medford, Everett and Somerville — the reservation has undergone many initiatives to protect open space and to provide contiguous greenspaces, pedestrian and bicycle connections, and active recreation facilities. DCR has been working to implement the most recent master plan that was published in 2009.

Needless to say, the Connector project has been one of the more challenging aspects of the plan and the construction marks a milestone in its completion, the department noted in a news release.

"DCR manages a vast trail network across the Commonwealth that provides communities with critical connections for economic opportunity, recreation and environmentally friendly commuting," said Brian Arrigo, the state agency's commissioner at 2023's groundbreaking event. "The Clippership Connector Greenway will build healthy communities by allowing them to walk, bike, and run along a section of the Mystic River that, to date, has been blocked from public access."

Since the project began in 2018, DCR has invested nearly $750,000 in the design and permitting of the Clippership Connector Greenway project. The construction is an additional $4 million investment funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The project is a collaboration between DCR, the city of Medford, the Mystic River Watershed Association, WalkMedford and the Solomon Foundation through the DCR Partnership Grant Program.

"The Clippership Connector truly connects our community, from Medford Square and the Senior Center to the Mystic River, to schools and parks, and, importantly, a whole bike network," noted state Rep. Christine P. Barber, D-34th Middlesex. "The result of a partnership between city and state partners, along with local advocates at Mystic River Watershed Association and WalkMedford, is this multi-use path will help to address climate change and improve mobility and quality of life for people in Medford and beyond."

In addition to maximizing opportunities for riverfront views for the community and increasing accessibility for people of all ages and abilities, DCR noted that the trail also improves the habitat and ecology of the riverbank.

The state agency anticipates construction on the greenway to be completed by 2025.




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