Significance of the West Roxbury Linear Park

This excerpt from pages 327-328 of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department Open Space Plan 2002-2006, Part 5 Resource Protection Mission: Greenways, Trails & Bikeways describes the significance of the Dedham Secondary Linear Park (Belle Avenue Corridor, 13 on the map) in connecting Boston's open spaces.

Table GTB-1: Linear Facilities Database: Selected Features
ID Facility Name Length (Total in Miles) Status Owner(s)

8 Mother Brook Greenway 1.34 Conceptual MDC COB Parks
13 Belle Avenue Corridor 1.07 Conceptual COM COB Other
15 Centre Street 2.03 Active MDC COB Other
17 Veterans of Foreign Wars Parkway 3.45 Active MDC
18 West Roxbury Parkway 1.72 Active MDC
19 Turtle Pond Parkway 1.03 Active MDC
23 Stony Brook Reservation Bike Paths 3.51 Active MDC
24 Stony Brook Reservation Trails Active MDC
25 Bellevue Hill 0.73 Active MDC
29 Arnold Arboretum 3.42 Active COB Parks Private
40 Allandale Woods Trails Active COB Parks
41 Millennium Park Paths 4.04 Active COB Parks
42 Millennium Park Riverbank Trails 0.47 Active COB Parks COB Other
43 Brook Farm Trails Active MDC Private
47 Millennium Park Connectors 1.96 Conceptual COB Other
48 Enneking Parkway 2.00 Active MDC
49 Dedham Parkway 0.50 Active MDC
50 Reservation Road 0.94 Active MDC COB Other
51 Smithfield Road 0.26 Active MDC
52 South Street-Walter Street 1.30 Conceptual COB Other
53 Bussey Street-South Street 1.09 Conceptual COB Other
55 John Blackwell Pathway 0.35 Active COB Parks
56 American Legion Highway 2.08 Active COB Parks COB Other
59 Sherrin Street Woods Trails Active COB Other
60 Stony Brook Easement Trail 0.00 Active COB Other COM Private
61 Neponset Valley Parkway 0.00 Active MDC
62 Truman Highway 1.85 Active MDC
Notes: Active = Currently Usable; Proposed (Cap Budg) = Project Funded;
Conceptual = Project Proposed, Not Funded;
COB = City of Boston COM = Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
MDC = Metropolitan District Commission;

Veterans of Foreign Wars Parkway/Belle Avenue Corridor

With the opening of Millennium Park in November 2000, a window on the Charles River has been created. A new handicapped-accessible canoe/kayak launch on the Charles and a bridge from the park over Saw Mill Brook to the Brook Farm portion of the MDC's Charles River Reservation are now available. The Rivermoor urban wild and the MDC's Havey Beach also provide informal access to the Charles in this area.

However, while automobile access to Millennium Park and its environs is excellent thanks to the MDC's Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Parkway, pedestrian and bicycle access is more difficult. Along much of the VFW Parkway from Centre Street to Spring Street, there are sizable cracks and bumps in the asphalt sidewalks due to age/weathering and the growth of tree roots. This makes walking, in-line skating, and safe bicycling on these sidewalks difficult if not hazardous. Along much of this stretch, a narrow paved shoulder exists that experienced cyclists can handle who are used to the high speeds of motorists on this recreational road-cum-regional highway. However, at major intersections where a third turning lane exists, the shoulder disappears, putting cyclists in the same right-of-way as high-speed motorists.

Given that Millennium Park has become a regional destination for recreation enthusiasts and nature lovers throughout the city, these issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive fashion. An initial step being taken is a proposed appropriation for a pedestrian bridge over VFW Parkway in the Millennium Park/ West Roxbury High School vicinity. In addition, resources need to be found to restore the sidewalk surfaces of VFW Parkway and better address accommodating bicyclists in this greenway corridor.

Another avenue for improving access to Millennium Park, especially for residents in the southwestern portions of West Roxbury, would be the incorporation of the former Dedham Secondary Branch into the park system. This abandoned rail line, also known as the Belle Avenue Corridor, stretches from the Boston-Dedham border near the Dedham Mall on Route 1 to Spring Street in West Roxbury near Baker and Gardner Streets. Except for a few encroachments, it is intact. As it continues into Dedham, it crosses paved areas that are part of the Dedham Mall complex, leading straight to Mother Brook which flows below grade through this sea of asphalt nearly unrecognized by Mall users. Based on some expressions of interest by the mall owners and the MDC, owner of the Brook's banks, a restoration of access to the Brook may be possible. Thus, this potential rail trail could link Mother Brook to Millennium Park on the Charles, a significant regional linkage. Further study needs to be done to determine the feasibility of converting this former rail line into a greenway corridor with protected wetlands and a local recreational use such as a childrens play area. Such a study would also look at the connection(s) from the northern terminus of this corridor to Millennium Park. Given the regional significance of Millennium Park, means of improving access to and from it, including from MDC's Cutler Park north of Millennium, should be pursued.