By Melissa Moore-Randall
An abandoned railway corridor that runs through Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus and Lynn has been transformed into a recreation spot for walkers, runners, and cyclists. The 10-mile trail, known as the Northern Strand Trail, is also used by commuters who use cycling as their mode of transportation.
According to Julie DeMauro, Revereâ€™s Special Assistant to Transportation Planning, the trail, formerly known as the Bike to the Sea Bike Path, was renamed to Northern Strand Trail in 2019. â€œThe trail was originally used as the Saugus Branch Railroad that was part of the Boston-Maine Rail Line. The Northern Strand is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3000-mile bike network that begins in Calais, Maine and runs to Key West, Florida. The trail also connects to other recreational facilities such as Harmond Park, Anna Parker Park, the Mystic River, the Saugus River and to Rumney Marsh.â€œ
Elle Baker, Revereâ€™s , Project Manager for Open Space and the Environment, said the trail began as a vision over 20 years ago starting with the bike advocacy group Bike by the Sea. â€œThis motivated group recognized the recreational potential for this abandoned railway. They worked with each community to educate and build support to transform this trail. Bike to the Sea, wrote grants and facilitated fundraising efforts to remove the rails and add gravel allowing access for walkers and runners. The previous Boston to Maine rail was operational between 1853 to 1958 and the station was called Franklin Parkâ€ (see photo)
Baker added, â€œOver the years several community planning meetings were held. This caught the attention of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental affairs. EOEEA provided a grant to support this initiative to connect all 5 communities seamlessly offering each community a voice in the planning process and amenities that will suit their communities. Revere will have seating at the marsh viewpoints, educational signs about history and wildlife, a bocce court, underpass lighting, and a plaza adjacent to Harmon Park. The plaza will include plantings, seating, bike racks, and a bike repair station. Improvements to the current bike/pedestrian crosswalk at Salem Street will consist of shorter crossing distances, a Rapid Flash Pedestrian Beacon and improved pavement markings and signage.â€ Planning for the project included extensive community outreach, spanned over a year, and incorporated community collaboration and agreements between all of the municipalities. Revere assumed the lead role to facilitate the project.â€
Those who travel along the trail will see a variety of sights ranging from urban settings with murals, industrial buildings, and a quiet and serene marsh with small local birds and wildlife providing a point where the sound of the city just disappears.
The main goal of current renovations is to provide outside recreational and commuter connections between the cities and towns for cyclists and pedestrians. The project is being fully funded by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for $13M.
The project contracted to Landscape Architect, Brown Richardson and Rowe, the Engineering Firm is Stantec Engineering with both being heavily involved with the community process.
DeMauro made note of substantial improvements. â€œImprovements to the current bike/pedestrian crosswalk at Salem Street will consist of a shorter crossing distance, a Rapid Flash Pedestrian Beacon and improved pavement markings and signage.â€
Baker reflected on the vision of the Trail. â€œThe ultimate vision for the trail is to offer another means of recreation for the residents of all five communities. Urban communities have limited green space and opportunities for outdoor activity. This introduces a new place that invites our residents to be active and improve their health both mentally and physically. Revere is grateful for the support of EOEEA. Without their support this project could only be completed piecemeal. The finished product will be an asset for all five communities that otherwise may not have been attainable and certainly would not have been completed as quickly.â€
DeMauro also shared more about the Trailâ€™s vision. â€œThe evolution of the Northern Strand Trail from a scenic path into a 10-mile paved regional shared use trail will produce positive economic, environmental, health and housing impacts for the five communities for which it serves. Historically, shared use paths boost local economies, provide greater access to jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and add value to neighborhoods and to the housing stock which abutts them. The reconstruction of the trail will preserve the history of the former rail line and create awareness of the important role that the Rumney Marsh Salt Marsh Reservation and Estuaries play in stabilizing the ecosystem feeding into Revere Beach and Boston Harbor.â€
DeMauro, an avid runner and a frequent visitor to the trail, looks forward to its future. â€œThe Northern Strand continues to increase in use and popularity by residents and visitors to the area. The trail is a great place to walk, bike or run. The area after the Route 1 overpass is by far the best spot along the trail. The views and tidal patterns of the Rumney Marsh are beautiful and breath-taking despite the season.â€