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Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

May 27, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Nicholas Zavolas
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Winthrop Harborwalk, Winthrop, MA
MEPA# 15202

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston works across Massachusetts advocating for improved and safe pedestrian facilities. We are very enthusiastic about local efforts that enhance the pedestrian environment, and where possible help residents and municipalities implement new walking facilities.

With delight, WalkBoston reviewed the ENF for the Winthrop Harborwalk, which has been designed to connect many of the water-related land uses in the former main harbor area of the town. It proposes recreating some of the original waterfront by reconstructing of a portion of the railroad trestle that once curved through Winthrop Harbor.

It’s very exciting to see a relatively small town take on a major pedestrian improvement that is focused on the waterfront. The Harborwalk will link the many nearby small businesses and local sidewalks to a new facility designed to offer residents a new way of looking at their harbor and at their town. The basic elements of the project include a new walkway designed to encourage walking along the current harborfront in areas that are primarily devoted to car parking and it opens up close views of several boatyards and marinas that are very close to the walkway.

We offer these comments:

Design the trail for extension to other areas

The proposed facility includes a 25-foot wide path – wider than most 10’-12’ wide joint use trails in Massachusetts. The right-of-way for the trail does not take away from existing parking or sidewalks, but instead adds space for walking through a proposed reuse of a former rail trestle in the harbor. Within this generous space, plans recognize the varying needs of the potential users of the path – for example, sitting spaces, strolling routes, and shade for sunny days. Many trails and viewing platforms are not as extensive or inclusive as this one. It suggests that there will be many users of this attractive facility, which is unique for the town and easily accessible to most residents. Given this likely success, it may be useful to think about extension of the trail to other areas along the waterfront, either where there are existing sidewalks that could perhaps be widened to allow more space or other alternative locations for walking and sitting at the harbor’s edge.

Design the trail to include runners
Joint use rail trails are a success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, new paths need to be carefully designed to serve a wide variety of users. In plans for the future (whether within this right-of-way or in trail extensions), it would be well to consider the needs of runners, who are frequent users of the trails. Runners often prefer a softer surface than that favored by cyclists and walkers; stone dust has frequently been used because it is more resilient and provides a more comfortable running surface.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Cc  James McKenna, Town Manager

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