GreenwayPhotoThe Upper Falls Greenway was a project to turn a mile long stretch of abandoned overgrown railroad tracks into a neighborhood park for walking, jogging and bicycling.

The construction started over two years ago and was meant to take just a few months.  The contractor pulled up the ties and rails promptly and then the project ground to a halt.  For the past two years, the contractor Iron Horse has made endless unfilled promises to finish the project.

The project has been immensely popular in the Upper Falls neighborhood and everyone here in the Falls has grown increasingly impatient and frustrated with Iron Horse’s foot dragging.

At the end of October the Upper Falls Area Council scheduled a meeting about the Greenway project and invited the mayor’s office.  Dori Seleznik, the city’s Chief Admin Officer, was scheduled to attend but at the last minute couldn’t.  The meeting went ahead anyway and the next day many residents sent emails to city hall voicing their displeasure with the state of affairs.

The following day, the mayor sent a brief one line unambiguous email saying (paraphrased) “project will be done by end of year”.

Since it was then nearly November, and given how long the project had already dragged on, most folks who heard that were extremely dubious that it would really come to pass.  A few weeks later various folks in the neighborhood began spotting city work crews on the site coming and going at different times.  Heavy equipment began to appear, work began to be done.

It’s now the new year so this afternoon I went for a walk with a neighbor on the new Upper Falls Greenway.  I’m delighted to report that it’s nearly completed.   Nearly the entire mile long stone dust path has been laid and rolled.   Very wisely, they did not finish the top stone dust layer near Tower Rd since they’ll still need to bring heavy equipment in to remove the stacked railroad ties.  The handicap access at Chestnut and Oak Streets has also been constructed.

The overlook deck at the Charles River is not officially open yet.  Iron Horse cut some corners in the design of the railing and the city needs to do a bit of re-work there.  The biggest remaining task is the removal and disposal of the old railroad ties.  In the meantime though, the city has done a good job of consolidating all the ties in one place, and stacking them neatly.

There are various planned amenities that will be added to the path but they will wait until springtime.  Benches, signs, and an information kiosk are ready to go and will be planted by the Parks & Rec Dept once the warm weather returns.  Also waiting in the wings are beautifully restored railroad switches that were refurbished by Newton North students.

In the meantime though, even without the amenities and finishing touches, the neighbors are already using the new park.  On our walk this afternoon we passed about a dozen people on the one mile walk – including kids in stollers, old folks, teenagers, and young boys on bicycles.

Congratulations and thanks go to the mayors’s office and the DPW crews for making this happen, to the Upper Falls Area Council for jump starting the project again, to our local aldermen – particularly Deb Crossley who’s recently been working with many of the abutting property owners and most especially to the Upper Falls residents who turned up for the recent meeting, wrote emails and letters and volunteer in various ways to support the neighborhood project.

We were all very dubious back in October when we saw that one line email from the mayor with what seemed to be a rash promise.  We’re all pleasantly surprised that he delivered on it as promised.