History of the Pathway
Published in the Lowdown October 2016
The concept of a bike/footpath through Newton Lower Falls has been on the table since 1969 comprehensive Recreation/Open Space Plan by the Newton Planning Department, authorized the publication in 1975 by the Newton Conservation Commission Charles River Pathway. The following objectives of this pathway were listed:
- To have a continuous footpath along the Charles River.
- To conserve the banks of the Charles in as natural a setting as possible.
- To add to outdoor recreational and educational opportunities available to the City.
This proposal is part of the Charles River Bike Path (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_River_Bike_Path)
and the Blue Heron Trail in Newton (http://www.newtonconservators.org/longwalkcharlesnorth3.htm). Both are segments of a larger system envisioned by the Metropolitan Park Commission in a report from 1892 by the landscape architect Charles Eliot “consisting of the banks of the Charles, Neponset and Mystic Rivers, the Blue Hills, the Middlesex Fells, and Lynn, Nahant, Winthrop, Quincy, and Nantasket beaches. This is how the report described the Newton section of the Charles river – “Within ten miles of Boston, there is a stretch of river scenery that cannot be surpassed in the United States.”
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) proposal for the section of the Blue Heron pathway through Lower Falls used the abandoned railroad line beginning at the bridge from Wellesley Hills through the woodland behind St Mary’s Street, across Pine Grove, continuing along the edge of the Leo J. Martin golf course parallel to Clearwater St, across Rt. 128/I95 and its access road using two bridges to Riverside (see segments 1.2.3 on the map).
In 2009 there was a renewed interest in the Lower Falls pathway by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which met opposition by abutters of the rail trail who filed a lawsuit against DCR. The controversy tore at the fabric of the Lower Falls community. In response the LFIA decided to not take any position for or against the trail, but rather to act as an educational resource for the community. The LFIA created a group to look at alternatives to the rail trail. The group defined 24 path segments that could be variably linked to get from the Wellesley Bridge to the LaSalle boathouse. (link to Preliminary Report of the Alternative Routes Study Group, Alternatives Presentation).
In 2010 the MBTA-initiated discussion over development of the Riverside T Station created a new incentive to look at alternative pathways. A simple link from Lower Falls to Riverside using segments 19 and 1 was promoted as safer pedestrian route to Riverside than negotiating the two new roundabouts. The segment could be linked to others to complete the pathway from Wellesley to LaSalle boathouse. (See Path Proposal to Riverside, and Bridges Path to Riverside). This proposal drew the interest of the larger Newton community and our local legislators. Consequently, as part of the mitigation package offered by the developer, funds were set aside for projects like trails.
In 2016 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courts ruled on the appeal from the Massachusetts Land Court by the plaintiffs, that the decommissioning of a trail line is a federal issue.
This finding has injected new life into discussions of the trail through Lower Falls becoming a reality. There are stakeholders* who would like to see this happen, including the DRC, the Wellesley Trails Committee, Bike Newton, and Newton Conservators. In anticipation of further discussion, the LFIA encourages the members of the LFIA to learn about the pathway. Immediately following the LFIA community meeting on October 23rd, there will be a group walk along portions of the DCR land to help familiarize people with the content of these discussions.
- Bike Newton, a 501c3 organization, aims to promote bicycling as a viable method of transportation in Newton, Massachusetts. Bicycling should be safe and convenient for all, org
- DCR : Department of Conservation and Recreation http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/recreational-activities/biking-paths-and-trails.html
- NRC Wellesley Trails Committee http://www.wellesleyma.gov/pages/wellesleyma_trails/index
- Newton Conservators – Newton Conservators Inc. promotes the protection and preservation of natural areas, including parks, park lands, playgrounds, forests and streams, which are open or may be converted to open spaces for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Newton for scientific study, education, and recreation. It further aims to disseminate information about these and other environmental matters. http://www.newtonconservators.org/aboutus.htm