Belle Island Marsh Project Moving Ahead

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The town is moving forward with a Belle Isle Marsh Marine Ecology Park and Marsh Walk. On Tuesday night,  the town council’s DPW subcommittee held a meeting to update residents of the Morton Street and Banks Street about the project.

The $1.2 million project of the only great urban salt marsh in the state will upgrade walking areas and improve the areas to enhance public use, said Town Manager James McKenna. All of this is being done keeping in mind the sensitivity off the marsh. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) owns and manages the marsh.

Five years ago the DCR constructed the Kilmartin Walkway and Footpath. The next step is to develop an ecology park and marsh walk. McKenna said there is a  vision an “outdoor laboratory” that will bring students and visitors to to learn about the Great Urban Salt Marsh.

Funds for the $1.2 million project are coming from grants from Seaport Economic Council funding.

Green International, engineers working on the project, sent two representatives who explained the work that is going to be done.

Danielle Spicer, an engineer with Green International, explained that there will be a footbridge to the East Boston greenway, a boardwalk and path along the fringe of the salt marsh in the area of Morton Street. The plan is to have an area for residents to leave kayaks and canoes, but residents chuckled because the area has no water at low tide.

Another footbridge will be located off Kennedy Drive near the Belle Isle cemetery. Co-engineer Peter Richardson said in certain areas for an overlook or footbridge they would be using metal pilings that are screwed in and less disruptive too the area. Stone dust would be used on walkways and any parking areas. All the construction would be completed by 2017.

Residents who attended the meeting expressed concern about Morton Street, the trash and illicit activity. McKenna told them the town would step up cleaning the area. Including more police presence.

The UMass Urban Design group is also on the team. Plans began a year ago and last night engineers sat with the Conservation Commission to go over the necessary permits. “There are a number of environmental permit applications,” Richardson said. “There is a delicate balance between public access and the marsh.”

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