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Neponset Greenway Phase 2

The Neponset River Greenway is a public trail, or multi-use path, that follows the Neponset River.  The goal of the project is to connect the Harborwalk to the Saltonstall Bikeway (along the Jamaicaway), and provide access to the river itself and the communities in between.

Phase I was opened in 2000, from Central Avenue in Milton to Boston Harbor at Port Norfolk.  It also includes Pope John Paul II Park, which used to house the old drive-in theater and flea market.  The park and Tenean Beach are popular destinations on the way to the rest of the Harborwalk.

Phase II was completed in 2010.  It connects Mattapan Square to the Martini Shell and park in Hyde Park.

The Greenway is a popular resource, and not just for cyclists.  It is used year-round by many joggers, walkers, rollerbladers and cyclists.

DCR To Present Trail Construction Plans April 13

The Department of Recreation and Conservation will present their construction plans for the Neponset River Greenway on Monday, April 13.  The meeting will be convened at the Foley Senior Center at 249 River Street in Mattapan from 7 to 8:30 PM, and it will describe the work that will be required to build the trail from Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan Square to Central Avenue in Milton.

The majority of equipment, supplies and construction work will be staged in the field behind Ryan Playground in Mattapan.  The trail will be built west on the Boston side of the Neponset River, and a new bridge, dubbed the "Canopy Walk" for its path through the treetops, will be built over the trolley tracks.  From there, the trail will continue beside the river and it will exit beside the newly-renovated DCR trailhead building.  The building, which used to be a mattress store, will be available for lease when the trail is completed.  The site sees thousands of commuters every day, and presents a good business opportunity for interested entrepreneurs.  If interested, please contact Kevin Hollenbeck at DCR, 616-333-7404x105.

On the Milton side, the construction site will extend west from Central Avenue between the trolley tracks and the river.  About halfway between the Valley Road and Capen Street stations, a bridge will be built across the river.  The project does not include a link to the Capen Street neighborhood.  

Site work in Milton will include clearing of some trees, installation of a trail base as well as culverts and swales, and pouring of the concrete bridge abutments.  The bridge will be assembled on the Boston side and lifted into place from the field behind Ryan Playground.

Construction of the project is expected to take up to two years.  Mattapan neighbors will be affected the most because of the equipment that will be trucked in to the field along Meadowbank Avenue.  Site access on the Milton side is expected to be limited to the Central Avenue entrance, and will be separated from local homes by some of the woods and by the trolley tracks.  

When complete, the Greenway will link to the existing trails, creating a pedestrian and bike-friendly corridor extending from the Blue Hills to Boston Harbor, including access to five MBTA stops, parks, a concert venue, canoe launches and a beach.  In the future, the trail is expected to link to the Boston Harborwalk, with direct access all the way to Castle Island in South Boston.

The existing trail is already patrolled by DCR staff and the state police, and the new trail section will be as well.

DCR welcomes all interested neighbors to attend the meeting to learn about the construction plans.

A rendering of the new trailhouse at Mattapan Square.  This will be available to lease, and with thousands of people passing it each day could make for a great small business site. (courtesy of DCR)

The proposed bridge over the trolley tracks (courtesy of DCR)

A photograph of the existing trail in Mattapan Square, from a site walk in October 2014. (photo by Lee Toma)

A preliminary rendering of the bridge between Ryan Playground and Milton.  (courtesy of DCR)

A rendering of the trail on the Milton side of the river. (courtesy of DCR)

Mock-up view of the new Central Avenue trailhead. (courtesy of DCR)

The DCR will hold a public meeting at 7:30 PM on November 17, 2011 at the Foley Senior Center in Mattapan.

Department of Conservation and Recreation
Commonwealth of Massachusetts 
Thursday, November 17, 2011 – 7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. 
Foley Senior Residences Dining Room
249 River Street, Mattapan
At the meeting, DCR will provide an update on the pathway project to link the Lower Neponset River Trail to the Neponset Esplanade, including information on a U. S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant application submitted by DCR for federal funding for the project.  DCR will also seek additional public input on potential design opportunities.   
If you have questions about the public meeting, please call 617-626-4974 or email DCR.Updates {at}

The DCR presented their updated plans for the Neponset River Greenway at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2011 at the Foley Senior Center in Mattapan.

Foley Senior Center, 249 River Street, Mattapan

Last year, the DCR presented five route options to connect the Greenway between Central and Blue Hill Avenues.  Many residents of the Capen Street neighborhood expressed concerns about loss of privacy, added traffic and potential security concerns if the trail were to follow the trolley tracks through their neighborhood.

The DCR listened to their comments, and those of other neighbors.  They've conducted environmental and archeological studies, and they've worked with the MBTA to find a route that they believe will satisfy the majority of local residents.  On the 30th, they will present their updated plans for the completion of this part of the Greenway.

In addition, the DCR also plans to extend the trail in Dorchester and Hyde Park.  The added sections may qualify the project for a "Tiger III" grant, which would include Federal and state funds.  The state has already committed to match the Federal funds, if the grant is approved.

The trail as it exists today already connects us to parks, playgrounds, the Farmer's Market and dozens of local businesses, boat launches, a beach and five train stations.  We believe that the completion of the Greenway will benefit our community by creating a green corridor for recreation and transportation, that stretches all the way from the Blue Hills Reservation to the Boston Harborwalk and downtown Boston.

We strongly encourage Milton residents to attend the presentation to learn more about the plans, and to provide additional comments.

May 5, 2011 - The MBTA is reviewing options that would allow the trail to cross the tracks near the Mattapan station.  If or when a design solution is agreed upon, the DCR will announce a public meeting.

On May 17th, 2010, the Department of Conservation and Recreation presented five possible options for the extension of the Neponset River Greenway trail between Central Avenue and Mattapan Square:
(A) Follow the MBTA tracks along the Milton side of the river, 
with a short section in Mattapan behind the trolley station
(B) From Central Ave, follow the MBTA tracks along the Milton side, 
then cross over to the Boston side into Mattapan
(C) Follow the Boston side of the river
(D) Same as Option (A) but with a bridge across to Ryan Park in Boston
(E) Opposite of Option (B)

In some areas, the trail would be next to the trolley line, like it is in the existing route through Milton and Dorchester.  Most of the route will be separated from housing by the rail line and fencing.

In other areas (depending on archaeological issues), it may be closer to the river, for better views.

DCR presents their evaluation of a number of criteria to compare the different routes:

The full presentation is available for review online at:

It is clear from the neighborhood feedback that many Boston residents want this amenity on their side, although the DCR noted that environmental and archeological issues may make the northern route more challenging.

A number of Capen Street residents support a Milton route, while others expressed concern with the potential traffic that the path could bring through their neighborhood.

From the cyclists' perspective, Options (A) and (D) are the most straightforward and usable.  Options (B) and (C) as they exist now are undesirable because the Blue Hill Avenue access point is through River Street, which is a narrow and busy road, not very friendly to young children.  However, DCR is evaluating the potential for a gated railroad grade crossing that would allow the trail to follow the Boston side of the river around the Mattapan MBTA Station and safely terminate at the wide Blue Hill Avenue sidewalk.

As the Committee seeks to improve cycling resources and access for Milton residents, we recommend that the path follow the Milton side of the river.  In order of preference, our choices are:
#1 (D) Milton with access to Ryan Park
#2 (A) Milton only
#3 (B) Milton and Boston (Capen Street bypass)

#1 Option (D) provides the most access for Milton and Boston residents, with greater proximity to the river and access to Ryan Park.

#2 Option (A) provides very good access, but limited mostly to Milton residents.  Like Option (D), it is a practical and family-friendly route for cyclists.  It also has the least risk of archeological complications, and the most visibility from the well-traveled MBTA line.

#3 Option (B) would be our third choice, selected out of deference to some residents of the Capen Street neighborhood.

To those of our neighbors who are undecided or opposed to the Milton routes, we believe that routes (D) and (A) offer:

  • State Police already patrol the existing paved path in their cruisers, and would continue along the extension.
  • Increased traffic and visibility reduces loitering.
  • Cyclists would not need to ride in traffic on narrow Eliot Street.

  • Direct connection to the Central Avenue business district, Lower Mills, Boston parks and beaches and the Blue Hills Reservation.

Economic Benefits:
  • Studies show* that multi-use paths are amenities that add to the appeal of a neighborhood.  This was supported by a number of residents from the Dorchester neighborhood who spoke up in favor of the existing trail.

As a last point, we suggest that it may be desirable to add a pedestrian access point to the trail at the Valley Road MBTA Station, much like at the Milton Station.  If Option (D) is selected, this would also give some Boston residents easier access to the trolley line.

We believe that completing the Neponset River Greenway will create quality-of-life, health and economic benefits that would be an asset to the Town of Milton.  The Bicycle Advisory Committee recommends that the Town support the completion of the trail in Milton.

Crime Myth vs. Reality on Trails

In Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's survey of crime on rail-trails, results show that the real issue is one of perceived rather than actual danger. Of 372 trails surveyed, only three percent reported major crimes such as mugging, assault, rape and murder. Other studies of crime along trails have shown the same result: trails are simply not dangerous places. In fact, rail-trails often clean up formerly derelict areas that had hosted criminal activity

Read more here.