9.13.2005

Excursion: New Riverwalk segment, Waltham to Watertown to Newton

The final, missing piece of the Waltham to Boston riverside trail was filled in late last year. It's the segment that stretches from Farwell Street on the Waltham/Watertown border to the intersection of California and Bridge streets in Newton. We had a chance to explore it a few weeks back.

There's always been a rough path going through the woods on the Newton side of the Charles River. I remember in the early 1980s going with my best friend to this area. We'd follow Albermarle Road and the Cheesecake Brook through quiet neighborhoods to where it empties into the Charles, and follow the dirt path through the forest to Bridge Street, cross over to Pleasant Street in Watertown, and hit Donkey Kong and other videogames at the Riverside Bowling Alley. In those days the river was in pretty rough shape; sewers and drains still emptied into it upriver and the banks were lined with weeds and lots of trash. But in the deeper part of the woods we could still pretend we were soldiers in Vietnam ...

In 2005, the picture is much different. The local authorities which designed and carried out the project really did a stellar job. On the Waltham/Watertown side, in back of Stop & Shop and those other industrial buildings behind Russo's, the wide path passes through beautiful, arching old trees. In places they've made a wooden path with railings to get over catchbasins or other depressed features. It's a wide area of woods stretching back from the river; you're hardly aware of the big buildings on the other side of the trees. Then the path crosses the river via a beautiful little bridge. On the Newton side, the path continues through mainly younger trees. There appears to be some construction still taking place, judging by the machinery and piles of gravel next to the trail, but it is still usable. A lot of the trash, undergrowth, and other impediments have been cleared away, and of course the river is much healthier now. And instead of playing soldiers in the forest, I tell my kids that we are walking through the Hundred Acre Wood (but Pooh and Piglet are hiding from the adults).

We couldn't walk the whole segment, because it was near lunchtime and the kids were hungry. But the path is getting a lot of use. It opens up the Waltham Riverwalk to all of the riders and joggers from points east who otherwise would have turned back at Bridge/California streets in Watertown and Newton. I've seemed to have noticed more bikers, and have even given directions to Moody Street to bikers who have come from Boston and Cambridge. Going in the opposite direction, it's possible to take the path all the way from Waltham to the Museum of Science and Beacon Hill.

Now if they can only get the Rail Trail project back on track ...

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