October 15, 2018: In September, National Grid appealed MassDEP’s written determination requiring them to build a public pathway on their land. CLF – in partnership with Mystic River Watershed Association and Friends of the Malden River – filed a motion to participate in the proceeding. We support MassDEP’s decision and want to ensure that our members and the public have access to the Malden River that they are entitled to. Public access to the waterfront for residents of Everett, Malden, and Medford is a matter of environmental justice and we will continue to work with our partners to fight for that access. Stay tuned for more information as the proceeding moves forward.
Earlier this summer, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced they would ensure the public’s access to the waterfront in Everett. The announcement came after CLF wrote MassDEP a letter urging them to hold DDR Gateway LLC, owner of the Gateway Center, accountable for its legal obligations to provide public access to waterfront areas.
Now, we have more good news for residents of Everett, Malden, and Medford. A few weeks ago, MassDEP issued a Chapter 91 written determination to National Grid that requires the company to build a pathway on their land that will run along the Malden River. This gives National Grid a unique opportunity to be a good neighbor to these underserved communities and a good environmental steward. It would make sense for the utility giant to work with its neighbors to create this public pathway, which will very likely become an important community amenity.
This decision is an important step towards creating a unified pathway along the river in these communities and will help to fulfil the Malden River Vision Plan. The public will finally have direct access to the river, which they have not had for 100 years. Both the Mystic River Watershed Association and the City of Everett, particularly Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr., deserve tremendous credit for their hard work in this effort. You can read more about this decision at the Boston Globe and the Everett Independent.
Greater Public Access Means More Environmental Justice
So why are these decisions important? Massachusetts has long recognized that residents of the Commonwealth have a right to access tidelands, which is written into law in Chapter 91 and the associated regulations. Because tidelands are often subject to private development pressure, it is important that the state actively protects the public’s rights to access and use these areas.
But public access to tidelands is also a matter of environmental justice. The cities of Everett and Malden are some of the most diverse communities in Massachusetts – large percentages of the populations are low-income and people of color. Individuals and families from Everett, Malden, and beyond have just as much right to enjoy the waterfront as people in wealthier communities, but providing meaningful public access has been prioritized in some communities more than others. One only has to look at the sharp contrast between places like Gateway Park in Everett and Assembly Row in Somerville, which is just across the river, to see this unfair reality. MassDEP’s recent decision requiring National Grid to provide public access to the waterfront in a way that will be beneficial to and utilized by local residents is a critical step towards providing equitable access to the Commonwealth’s natural resources across all communities.
CLF was glad to lend our voice in support of these efforts, and we will continue to do so.