With a little help, the Malden River could be the next Greater Boston waterway reclaimed from its polluted past. Planners are working on blueprints for a network of parks and trails that would open the length of the river to pedestrians and cyclists, bringing new life to the area bordering Everett, Malden, and Medford.
Whether the river reaches its potential, though, relies to a big degree on the utility company National Grid, which owns a key stretch of riverfront property in Malden and Everett. The company is in the midst of renewing its state permits for the property, which will determine how much of the land it makes available for public use.
The company appears close to a deal that would allow a path along the full length of its property, connecting with existing or planned trails on either end. It would provide benefits that go beyond just the immediate area. The bicycle infrastructure north of Boston still has big gaps, but improving the Malden River plan would make it more plausible to bike to and from Everett, Saugus, Lynn, Malden, and Boston.
Currently, says Herb Nolan of the Solomon Foundation, a nonprofit that supports parks projects, the lack of good bike connections from the North Shore into Boston creates “one of the biggest bottlenecks along the Eastern Seaboard.”
There now appears to be more momentum behind improving the riverfront area, in part thanks to the casino development in Everett. The owner, Wynn Resorts, has agreed to pay for a study of a pedestrian and cyclist bridge that would link Everett and the Assembly Square T station. In another important shift, Somerville mayor Joe Curtatone is now sounding much more favorable to the pedestrian bridge.
The National Grid property, located north of the casino, would allow a pathway from Malden into Everett and onward to the potential bridge site. In a statement to the Globe, the utility said it was “hopeful” that an agreement could be reached. Allowing a pathway would keep ambitious plans in the area on track.