Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Magazine Beach Transformation

In the few years I've lived here, one of the more disappointing parts of C-port is the lack of a relationship with the Charles. Physically, the neighborhood's form is defined by the river, either by the sweeping curve of the water itself or by the street grid created by the four heavily used crossings in the Harvard, BU, River and Western bridges. For a variety of reasons, however, most of my direct experiences with the river occur either to the west and east, in front of Harvard and MIT. Our portion of the riverbank lacks a pedestrian connection (or even view) of the water. The Mag Beach park has been pretty run down and overgrown.

A variety of state and city-led projects are seeking to change that, guided by the DCR Charles River Basin Master Plan, created in 1999. The Magazine Beach portion of the document is a pretty interesting read, reaching back to the Olmsted design of 1899. Some projects, such as regrading and resodding the playfields to have more usable surfaces and drainage, began construction nearly a year ago, and are nearing completion. As is the new Riverside Park at the corner of Western and Memorial, at the former Mahoney's Garden Center site. According to the Cambridge CDD website, the park will be completely finished next spring. Helping neighbors get there is a project to repair and improve the Magazine Street pedestrian bridge over Memorial Drive.

Other projects, though long in the planning stages, are just beginning. As noted last week, the Memorial Drive Historic Parkways Preservation program's tree and vegetation removal have sparked controversy this summer. The last big project is the on-again, off-again BU Bridge restoration, a necessary project that has seen its share of bureaucratic infighting.

Once all these projects are complete, planners and state agencies hope to see constant activity at Magazine Beach, from continuous riverside paths to softball and soccer games. Some even have visions of recreational swimming returning to the Charles, a proposal not without its own problems, but one that takes the challenge of reconnecting the neighborhood to the river literally.

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