It could be a peaceful bike path passing through a corner of Wood Island Bay Marsh–part of a former Frederick Law Olmsted park that years ago was cut off from the community and partly erased by airport expansion. It would also connect two halves of East Boston that were split by the airport by traveling from the end of the current East Bremen Street path near the Wood Island T Station to Constitution Beach.
“We could go from the community with the least open space, to opening up a park system in East Boston,” said Chris Marchi, an advocate for the path and vice president of Air Impact Relief Inc., a 30-year old community group established to mitigate damages from the airport.
But Massport, the state agency that operates the airport, wants none of it.
Protective of a bus yard being built just on the other side of the fence from the proposed path, Massport officials are saying they fear a bike and pedestrian path could be a welcome mat for terrorists. Massport Chief Development Officer Lowell Richards asserted at a meeting last December that “buses are a target just like airplanes are a target,” played up the possibility of crime on the path, and even raised fears that children could climb through “holes in the fence” along the proposed path and get hit by the MBTA’s Blue Line.
But, best said by Globe columnist Lawrence Harmon, these types of security concerns “would carry more weight if any stumblebum couldn’t wind his way around the Wood Island T station right now, wander through a limo lot, and enter the construction area unchallenged.”
After the Union walked the proposed path of the greenway this winter, also unchallenged, it appears quite clear that a bike path through this area could only make it more secure than what it is now–a place where no one is watching.
But despite the good sense of this “East Boston Greenway Extension,” some neighbors to the proposed path of the greenway do actually oppose it. Even though only nine houses would actually have a view of it by peering over the Blue Line tracks through two chain link and barbed wire fences (without holes), dozens of other East Bostonians signed onto a petition against the path, and cite a variety of fears ranging from crime to noise to trash.
Though the idea for the path has been around since at least 1997, it wasn’t getting much traction until recently, when, under pressure from AIR Inc. and other community groups, the Boston Conservation Commission, reviewing a haul road being built by Massport adjacent to the path, called upon the agency to meet with community residents. This in turn generated some news coverage and a column in the Boston Globe.
A growing group of elected officials have also been supporting the path, including state Senator Anthony Petrucelli, Mayor Thomas Menino, and City Councilors Sal LaMattina and Felix G. Arroyo, as well as a list of non-profits, including the Boston Natural Areas Network, the Boston Cyclists Union, AIR Inc., and a handful of others.
Marchi feels that the last piece that needs to fall into place in order to really turn Massport around would be the office of Governor Deval Patrick.
And this is where you come in.
If you bike in East Boston at all and would like an easier route to Constitution Beach or Winthrop and Revere, AIR Inc. is calling upon you to write a letter to Governor Deval Patrick in support of the East Boston Greenway Extension.
Tell the Governor where you live, how you would use the extension, and why you think it’s a good idea. You can fill out the Governor’s comment form here, call 617-725-4005, or write to:
Office of the Governor
Boston, MA 02133