Local Projects Within A Regional Coalition

Boston has a legacy of well-known greenway paths, building green routes along the Charles and Muddy Rivers more than a century ago.  Following the visionary plans of Frederick Law Olmstead, the Esplanade and the Emerald Necklace both took long-neglected waterways and improved the surroundings and paths to make them pleasant destinations. Not only did they attract users who strolled along the new paths, but they also attracted cultural institutions and improved the adjacent neighborhoods. This process has repeated itself continuously with completed portions of the Somerville Community Path, the Southwest Corridor, and the Harborwalk.

The Green Routes Initiative intends to build on this legacy by advocating for closing gaps in and creating links between existing greenway segments across the region – rail-to-trail and rail-with-trail conversions, riverbank and harbor paths, parkland and reservation trails.  A new working group has focused on the urban area that sweeps around from the Mystic to the Charles to the Neponset rivers. This effort has mapped a network of potential paths and missing gaps that better connect existing greenways in the “three river area” to create a seamless system of 200 miles for people of all ages and abilities who walk, run, or bike.  Whether walking, running, pushing strollers, skating, or cycling, residents and visitors will eventually be linked to places along a beautiful series of tree-lined multi-use paths and low-stress streets.  By widening and improving existing paths and sidewalks, constructing new paths and cycle tracks, and enhancing neighborhood streets with a dense tree canopy and expanded storm water management systems, Green Routes will enhance the livability and sustainability of the region.

The Green Routes Initiative is not seeking to form a new, independent organization, but rather to be a staffed coalition of organizations that will organize meetings, conduct research, and/or apply for grant funding.  Although many individuals and institutions have thought about the value of connecting the existing Green Routes this Initiative is the first time that a concerted effort has made by a broad coalition of groups and individuals to produce a map with this level of detail and a plan to support this project through a range of advocacy efforts and support for public agencies.

Creating a regional Green Routes system that attracts large amounts of pedestrian and bicycle usage requires both lots of local efforts as well as a regional coalition.  Over the past year there has been a new effort, with significant technical support from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to push forward on town-by-town projects.   In the “three river area” an effort has begun, with help from MAPC and the civil engineering program at Northeastern University as well as financial support from both the Trustee’s Collaborative and the Solomon Foundation and staffed by LivableStreets Alliance, to identify gaps in the existing greenway segments and to link those segments together with each other and the larger regional system.  Regionally, there have been intermittent gatherings of people from advocacy groups, municipal government, environmental and recreation groups to explore how to work together for policy and funding changes to facilitate the local projects.

See Larger Map Below...

The Green Routes Initiative

The Green Routes Initiative strives to build a mixed-use network of linear parks and green streets to connect and expand the existing greenways in the core of the Boston region. By widening and improving existing paths, constructing new paths and cycle tracks, and enhancing neighborhood streets with a dense tree canopy and expanded storm water management systems, the Green Routes Network will enhance the livability and sustainability of the region. Building on the natural beauty of the rivers and harbor, the legacy of Olmsted, the foresight of the Southwest Corridor, and recently completed trails, this network will connect the Neponset, the Charles, and the Mystic for transportation or recreation by people on foot or with a set of self-powered wheels. Whether used by people walking, running, pushing strollers, skating, or cycling, and for every age of resident and visitor, the Green Routes Network will help people safely and comfortably move along a beautiful series of linear parks.

Map Overview

The Green Routes Vision Map (see map below) shows the full build-out of the proposed Green Routes Network in the Boston area. It does not capture every good idea in the area but rather shows an intuitive set of loops and lines in Boston and adjacent communities that have the potential to meet the high standards of greenways and greenlinks. The nearly 200 miles depicted are only the core of a much broader regional network to be planned and expanded in the years ahead.

 What is a “Greenway”?

Greenways form a multi-use linear park system. A greenway is a protected route or shared use path, or pair of bicycle and pedestrian paths, that runs through or along a parkland or waterfront. Some of these parks are narrow linear parks within historic rail right-of-ways or along the edge of a river, while others are within larger park areas or in former industrial areas. All of the greenways are designed especially for non-motorized travel. Depending on their location, they may be used primarily for recreation or for transportation, but all of them will provide a safe and comfortable trip for users of all ability levels.

What is a “Greenlink”?

The greenlinks tie the greenways together and expands on them to create an interconnected network of green routes. A greenlink could take one of several forms. It may be a tree-lined historic parkway where space is taken from the median, carriageway, or a lane diet to create a protected space for cyclists and pedestrians. It may be a quiet street which receives additional traffic calming measures and plantings to enhance its value in the green route network. In order to connect the network, additional tree-lined streets may get cycle tracks or similar protected facilities; however, not every street with a cycle track will be added to the Green Routes Network.

Interested in learning more or getting involved? 

Contact us:  GreenRoutes@LivableStreets.Info