Groundwork in the Tufts Daily!

State agency plans Mystic River preservation

By Smriti Choudhury

Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) unveiled last month its plans to protect the areas surrounding the Mystic River by promoting recreation, protecting wildlife and setting park regulations for the future.

After several years of meeting with organizations, businesses and local residents, the DCR released the Mystic River Master Plan to identify possible locations for improvements that will ensure the longevity of Tufts’ neighboring river and surrounding areas.

Projects outlined in the plan include a collaborative effort by the DCR and the City of Medford to renovate the Condon Shell, a Medford outdoor amphitheater, as well as restoration of parklands near Mystic River’s Amelia Earhart Dam and the creation of a greenway in Alewife.

DCR spokesperson Wendy Fox said the plan seeks to ensure the survival of the Mystic River area.

“The long−term impact of the plan is to protect the areas on the sides of the river, preserve the natural habitats and encourage recreational use of the land all the while protecting the natural resources,” Fox told the Daily.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D−Mass.) emphasized in a Sept. 15 statement the importance of taking action to preserve the Mystic River.

“By making preservation plans for this watershed, we ensure that its recreational space, wildlife habitat, and vital natural resources are protected for generations to come,” Patrick said in the statement.

The Mystic River Reservation covers 21 communities from Reading to the Boston Harbor and extends through Medford, Arlington and Somerville. The DCR’s plan covers a small portion of this land extending to an approximately two−block radius of the river.

In conjunction with efforts to preserve the river’s natural resources and wildlife, the plan also aims to attract more residents to the area.

The City of Somerville is currently working on a conservation project with environmental organization Groundwork Somerville to make the local Blessing of the Bay Boathouse more accessible and inviting to the public. The project, which includes plans to plant several gardens and build new seating areas, aims to increase public interest in the underutilized boathouse, according to City of Somerville Deputy Director of Communications Jaclyn Rossetti.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone emphasized that the preservation of the lands surrounding the Mystic River will benefit residents of the community.

“Preserving the land around the Mystic River and cleaning up the River and waterfront areas will not only help to filter storm water and resulting pollutants running into the Mystic, but will also increase recreational opportunities both on and off the water,” Curtatone told the Daily in an e−mail. “We have a limited shoreline in this city, and the river is one of our greatest treasures. With increased access to boating, our constituents will be better able to connect to the Charles River and Boston Harbor.”

Members of the Tufts community have also contributed to the Mystic River preservation movement through conservationist efforts for the river’s water.

“We are trying to get the Medford/Somerville community to work with us to help address the problems regarding the Mystic River because of our close proximity to the water and urban planning,” Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Rich Vogel said.

Vogel serves as director of the graduate program Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS), an interdisciplinary program spanning a number of Tufts’ graduate schools. Affiliated with the Mystic Water Association, WSSS has centered its curriculum this year on the Mystic River. Vogel will host today at noon a discussion with local state leaders on water−related issues faced by the Mystic River and surrounding bodies of water.