DCR proposes overhaul of entire Emerald Necklace foot, bike travel

Rebeca Oliveira

Courtesy photo
“Emerald Necklace Crosswalk and Pathway Treatment Guidelines” show some current crosswalk conditions along the Emerald Necklace. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy are looking to make improvements to crosswalks as part of their recently unveiled rehabilitation project that will also look at sidewalks and paths all along the Emerald Necklace corridor from Back Bay to the Casey Overpass.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), along with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and consultants Pressley Associates, presented a wide-sweeping rehabilitation and expansion project for the Emerald Necklace’s sidewalks, crossings and paths at a community meeting held at Wheelock College on Oct. 7, attended by about 60 people.

In Jamaica Plain, the project area includes the Jamaicaway, which borders Leverett, Ward and Jamaica ponds, Perkins Street, north of Jamaica Pond and the Arborway, up to the Casey Overpass.

With regards to pedestrian crossings at the Arboretum and at Cabot Estate, Wendy Fox from DCR said that examining those issues is “certainly a possibility… I think that’s being determined right now,” noting that this is the kind of input DCR is currently gathering.

The meeting was the opening to a long process that aims to standardize, upgrade and expand the sidewalks, crossings, bike paths, and signage of the Emerald Necklace system, from the Back Bay Fens to the Casey Overpass, Joseph Orfant, chief of bureau of planning and resource protection at DCR, said.

This is a chance to “step back and take a good hard look” at what the Emerald Necklace and its neighbors want and need, Orfant added.

The Gazette learned of this meeting too late to announce in the previous issue.

The point of this first meeting, Orfant said, was to hear concerns and fine-tune the scope of work required. Throughout the meeting, attendees were asked about their concerns and ideas, all of which were noted down for the project’s reference.

The public comment period for the first phase of the project is open through Oct. 24 and includes a user survey that is available for submission on the DCR website.

A large number of concerns raised at the meeting had to do with bicycle traffic and how to best integrate it with pedestrians and motor vehicles while keeping cyclists safe.

In attendance were members of the Boston Cyclists’ Union and the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, along with residents from Cabot Estate, where a pedestrian was struck by a car last month, a representative from Jeffrey Sánchez’s office and residents of every stretch of the Emerald necklace.

While the execution of the eventual plan will be affected by other Emerald Necklace projects, including current pedestrian and bike enhancements along Jamaica Pond, new Arborway improvements, current construction at Museum Street and Forsyth Way near the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Emerald Necklace Institutional Master Plan (IMP), DCR representatives said they plan to bring many crossings up to date with better markings and fully-compliant ramps.

DCR also plans to add more crossings and more signage to the 78 crossings already present along the 10.6 miles of sidewalks under its jurisdiction in this project, according to Gary Claiborne of Pressley Associates.

Claiborne also said that currently, conditions vary for the many paths in the Emerald Necklace: some are not wheelchair-accessible; some are too narrow; and there are erosion and grading problems along many other paths.

The project will also investigate “desire” vectors, where clear paths have been worn into grass and dirt that indicate high levels of pedestrian and bike traffic, Claiborne said.

For the next four months, DCR and Pressley Associates are planning to develop treatment recommendations and draft guidelines for the project, which are expected to be presented at the next community project meeting in January.

Details of the meeting, including a copy of the slide presentation, are available here. Questions and comments are welcome at [email protected], Orfant said.

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