A navigable Muddy River

davem

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So I've seen pictures from ye olde victorian times of people rowing on the Muddy River, usually through the Fens. Going way back, the Muddy was a pretty major transportation link, since the surrounding area was all marsh. With the daylighting happening in Fenway, and an eventual reconstruction around Charlesgate, what would the obstacles be in restoring this ability to say, Jamacia Pond? Could it even happen with all the flood control provisions?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So I've seen pictures from ye olde victorian times of people rowing on the Muddy River, usually through the Fens. Going way back, the Muddy was a pretty major transportation link, since the surrounding area was all marsh. With the daylighting happening in Fenway, and an eventual reconstruction around Charlesgate, what would the obstacles be in restoring this ability to say, Jamacia Pond? Could it even happen with all the flood control provisions?
Probably not with the flood control provisions. Too much has changed with the Charles Basin system since those days. But they definitely need to step it up with the environmental restoration. De-clog the silt, get rid of the invasive species, more aggressively control the erosion. It can certainly become a much more natural stream. Not too much pollution like the Charles. If the top layers of silt all need to be dredged anyway the restoration would start from a clean footprint upstream-to-down.

I'd like to see the Muddy reservation turn a little more into Fresh Pond...an environmental sustainability lab that ends up bringing more true native wildlife into the city. City of Cambridge does amazing work at FP on a low budget, and turned around some of the more desiccated parts of the reservation in short order by getting creative and using sustainable materials. It'd be a big draw if the whole Longwood-JP segment got overturned and started attracting native fishes, plants, birds. Even if it's going to take a lot longer to get the Fens and Bowker-land parts in similar shape.


It's just shocking how bad the MDC was for so many years at things like basic Erosion Control 101 and invasive species. Stuff that's not exactly new science. You can instantly tell ex-MDC land apart from city parks by all the crabgrass, empty fields of goose shit, severe drainage problems, river/stream banks worn to bare clay, craggy unkempt trees, and giant grass clots sticking out of water. Just like you can tell any ex-MDC roadway from a city roadway by the ineptly-timed traffic signals, 'intermittent' narrow sidewalks, and terrifying absence of crosswalk priority.
 

davem

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I'm going to bump this again, because I'm bored.

To start, is it necessary to have floor control on the Muddy any longer, now that the Charles is no longer tidal? I understand that the majority of the Muddy's flow actually goes through a culvert under Brookline Ave, but besides that is it necessary to have it cut off and controlled where it meets the Charles?

If not, then the obstacles I see to allowing rowing down the river are

1) Storrow Drive. It completely cuts off the Muddy from the Charles on the surface.

2) Various bridges, particularly along the Charlesgate. Many are too low for a rower to pass beneath and would have to be raised a bit. This may be more expensive than it is worth.

3) Riverway near Brookline Village. More fill done here. A reworking of the redundant ramps to get onto the parkway could allow the rivers flow to be unobstructed.

4) Entrance to Jamaica Pond. It appears the water flow is controlled from the pond into the muddy. Is this necessary? I know the pond was once a reservoir, but IIRC unlike the Chestnut Hill reservoir, Jamaica Pond is no longer part of the backup system. Correct?


Finally, would this be worth it? It would only be navigable to rowers and tiny powerboats. But, seeing the success of Charles River Canoe & Kayak, as well as the general use of the water in general, it would seem to be a nice nod to the southern neighborhoods if they could take advantage of the water as much as those of us in the west can.



A further thought is that perhaps this should be a general waterways thread. I know we were talking about how not having the Broad Canal stretch up to Mechanics Square any longer is a loss, and I also lament that the South Bay was filled, since I imagine it could be as splendid as the Charles River basin today (would probably need a dam at Dorchester Ave, but still). Instead we have a nasty mall and industrial park. Of course this is all likely water under the bridge (haha!), but it's nice to think about.
 

CSTH

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2) Various bridges, particularly along the Charlesgate. Many are too low for a rower to pass beneath and would have to be raised a bit. This may be more expensive than it is worth.
These notably include the Pike and the Worcester line
 

FK4

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3) Riverway near Brookline Village. More fill done here. A reworking of the redundant ramps to get onto the parkway could allow the rivers flow to be unobstructed.
This would be a massive reworking of the ramps. Plus, the only redundant ramp is the offramp from the Riverway into Brookline Ice & Coal. That ramp is going to be removed sometime soon, but I believe the onramp will remain (and that onramp is not redundant, it gets traffic off of Brookline Ave by bypassing the lights). Dont forget about Route 9 which also obstructs the river... so no way this going to get done.

4) Entrance to Jamaica Pond. It appears the water flow is controlled from the pond into the muddy. Is this necessary? I know the pond was once a reservoir, but IIRC unlike the Chestnut Hill reservoir, Jamaica Pond is no longer part of the backup system. Correct?
The surface of the pond is a good 20-30 feet above the river. You'd have all sorts of problems if you just opened it up and let it cascade down into the Muddy. Even in big storms, the walkway gets ripped up down in the Lost Pond as it is, due to torrents of water.

--

I dont know what the deal is with the Charles/Muddy confluence flood control apparatus, but the Muddy floods horrendously and frequently, including this Tuesday (the Landmark Ctr project is addressing this, hopefully effectively).

The best you'd get is discrete segments where boating is allowed. And it would probably be very popular but given the serious shortage of water surface area, you'd have to seriously restrict the number of craft on the water at any given time.... which would drive prices up (it would only be a DCR-licensed vendor, just putting in a public boat ramp would never happen) or make lines terribly long. In short, there's just too many people for too small an area. Sorry to be a downer... I fantasize about it too. An old family friend told me her friends took a canoe under the bridges all the way down the Muddy in the '30s (dont know if the tale was apocryphal or not since Im not sure if that's feasible, even if you lay down in the canoe)//

As for water recreation, I think it would be less unreasonable to allow personal watercraft on Jamaica Pond. It also would probably need to be restricted, but you could only allow JP residents and since city people are usually idiots when it comes to water (some JP resident manages to drown in the pond every other year just illegally swimming), you could only allow those who passed a swimming and boater safety course to use it. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me (Jamaica Pond is DEEP, up to 40-50 feet).
 

JonFrum

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Muddy river, so called was never used for transportation. The title river is a misnomer, and may cause confusion. Muddy river is a very small drainage, and would have been better called a stream. Stony brook certainly drained a much larger area, and had a significantly larger flow.

Both Muddy river and Stony brook emptied into the Charles river estuary. As far as Muddy river goes, once it got around Parker hill, it was simply part of a salt marsh, and it would be difficult to make sense of extending it much further than to the beginning of today's Fens area.

People may have canoed through the Fens to the Charles, but given that it was tidal, the water levels would have fallen quite low twice each day, and would hardly have matched canoeing on the Charles, for instance.

Regarding the flow from Jamaica Pond: There was once a grist mill at the outlet of the pond down to Muddy river. A lawsuit was filed to stop the owner of the mill from lowering the level of the pond too far. Since before the town of West Roxbury was annexed the community had to piped in water, everyone was on well water, and as the pond was drawn down, local wells were drawn down as well. The geology of the area is sand/gravel, with springs running throughout, all connected between the pond and the 'plain' of JP.
 

Semass

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For a very cool and uncrowded urban canoe/kayak, go to the Malden River on the border of Medford and Everett. There is a free state ramp behind the station landing parking lot. Tufts and Gentle Giant crew there but otherwise pretty empty. The Mystic is nice too Between Mystic Lakes and the Earhart Dam.
 

JeffDowntown

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^ For so soon after the civil engineering work, that looks great. Give it 10 years to fill in and WOW!
 

F-Line to Dudley

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^ For so soon after the civil engineering work, that looks great. Give it 10 years to fill in and WOW!
Unfortunately almost right behind that vantage point the invasive reed overgrowth is still choking the river to death. I walked the northerly path Park Dr. to Brookline Ave. on Wednesday. They have a corrugated metal barrier with a drainpipe "dam" at the construction limits of the new section to keep those weeds from immediately overrunning the area. Behind it, they're 10-15 feet tall, so opaquely thick you can't even see the water from the path, and quash the current to a standstill. They thin out a little upstream, but it's still the same stagnant water it always was.

I have to wonder what DCR's endgame is for this. They're going to have to treat the entire river top-to-bottom (or at least Leverett Pond to Ipswich St.) to get anywhere. Invasive species control...not just in one place, but everywhere. No more letting the Fens catch on fire every March like it's a normal thing. Shoreline soil stabilization/restoration...not just one place, but everywhere. Replanting of native species. Dredging where erosion has clogged the current from flowing. A higher monitoring budget.

City of Cambridge has been running circles around the whole of a state agency with the show it's been putting on the last dozen years of environmental restoration around Fresh Pond. DCR seems to lack the will to do that to any of the Charles Basin in more than the smallest token move like daylighting that one block in front of Landmark Center. The rest of the Muddy is as destitute as ever. They've done nothing about the completely eroded soil along the Charles in Cambridge and Allston, nothing about the invasive reeds anywhere, and they seem to have given up on geese overpopulation control. It's not going to work unless they start treating the whole patient.
 

Downburst

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I thought maintenance for this stretch was being coordinated/led by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, no?

https://www.emeraldnecklace.org/park-overview/back-bay-fens/

https://www.emeraldnecklace.org/restoration/maintenance/

I do think they need to install aeration devices to improve dissolved oxygen levels.
I work closely with the Muddy. The daylighting of the Muddy in front of the Landmark Center was the first phase of a wider, multi-phase environmental restoration project for the Muddy River. This wider restoration project is a joint effort between Boston, Brookline, the state, and the Army Corps of Engineers. http://www.muddyrivermmoc.org/

The next phase will remove the vast majority of the invasive reeds and plants in the Fens and Riverway, dredge significant portions of the river from the Fenway up to Leverett Pond, and replant/regrade the landscape in line with Olmsted's original plans for the area. This second phase is currently out to bid for subcontractors, and, with any luck, will be starting next year...

...as for the river's slow flow, the Muddy's change in elevation from Wards' Pond in Olmsted Park to its "mouth" at Charlesgate is literally a foot. There's never going to be a lot of flow, so it's imperative to keep the River maintained more than it's been in the past.

A small write-up: https://thebostonsun.com/2018/10/26/parks-department-proposes-phase-2-of-muddy-river-project-blc-denies-flood-wall/
 

FK4

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I work closely with the Muddy. The daylighting of the Muddy in front of the Landmark Center was the first phase of a wider, multi-phase environmental restoration project for the Muddy River. This wider restoration project is a joint effort between Boston, Brookline, the state, and the Army Corps of Engineers. http://www.muddyrivermmoc.org/

The next phase will remove the vast majority of the invasive reeds and plants in the Fens and Riverway, dredge significant portions of the river from the Fenway up to Leverett Pond, and replant/regrade the landscape in line with Olmsted's original plans for the area. This second phase is currently out to bid for subcontractors, and, with any luck, will be starting next year...

...as for the river's slow flow, the Muddy's change in elevation from Wards' Pond in Olmsted Park to its "mouth" at Charlesgate is literally a foot. There's never going to be a lot of flow, so it's imperative to keep the River maintained more than it's been in the past.

A small write-up: https://thebostonsun.com/2018/10/26/parks-department-proposes-phase-2-of-muddy-river-project-blc-denies-flood-wall/
Thanks Downburst - excellent update and rundown ... I had no idea there was more of a plan to come. It’s sorely needed but that’s extremely encouraging to hear of such extensive work coming down the pipe.

I think the Muddy was tidal to at least Huntington Ave, which probably helped more with circulation back then.

Could you speak to F-line’s pointing out the issues of erosion? Erosion all along the Muddy, particularly the Boston side between the Landmark and Brookline Ave, has been severe for as long as I can remember. Do the plans include any restoration of the upper banks and parkland as well as the riverbed itself?
 

Downburst

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Thanks Downburst - excellent update and rundown ... I had no idea there was more of a plan to come. It’s sorely needed but that’s extremely encouraging to hear of such extensive work coming down the pipe.

I think the Muddy was tidal to at least Huntington Ave, which probably helped more with circulation back then.

Could you speak to F-line’s pointing out the issues of erosion? Erosion all along the Muddy, particularly the Boston side between the Landmark and Brookline Ave, has been severe for as long as I can remember. Do the plans include any restoration of the upper banks and parkland as well as the riverbed itself?
Happy to help, FK4.

The next phase of the project is going to be extensive, and disruptive to the parks for a few years. Heavy equipment in and around the Muddy, dump trucks moving in and out throughout the northern stretches of the Emerald Necklace, including the Victory Gardens, Riverway, etc.

It's worth it, of course- this whole restoration is, first and foremost, a flood control project directly responding to the Muddy's 1996 flood, which caused about $70 million in damage and flooded Kenmore Station- but it will be on the public powers that be/advocacy groups to communicate what's going on to the public.

As for erosion concerns: My understanding is that the project will fill and regrade the shoreline to match Olmsted's original plans for these areas as closely as possible. The will also replant extensively with native species. BeeLine's photos of the first phase work above give a good idea of what you could expect throughout the project area. Restored shoreline, lots of new plants.

Those plantings should be more than enough to maintain the shoreline, but it's absolutely necessary that Boston Parks stays on top of maintaining them and the area. To lose them would be tantamount to undoing all of this work.
 

FK4

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Happy to help, FK4.


As for erosion concerns: My understanding is that the project will fill and regrade the shoreline to match Olmsted's original plans for these areas as closely as possible. The will also replant extensively with native species. BeeLine's photos of the first phase work above give a good idea of what you could expect throughout the project area. Restored shoreline, lots of new plants.

Those plantings should be more than enough to maintain the shoreline, but it's absolutely necessary that Boston Parks stays on top of maintaining them and the area. To lose them would be tantamount to undoing all of this work.
Thanks. The difference is that once you get along the green line, the width of the linear park is much greater than the parcel that was recently daylighted. So, bank restoration and park restoration could be totally separate projects, depending on the scope. There’s quite a ways between the Riverway along Wheelock and the river, and that’s one area that’s really hurting... I would hope they can address that, despite the fact that it’s far from the riverbank itself.

The oaks along the entire Riverway / Jway are hurting pretty badly, as well; there was some sort of series of blights along with caterpillars last summer that also damaged a number of them. Hopefully the plantings can address that, as well.
 

Downburst

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So, bank restoration and park restoration could be totally separate projects, depending on the scope.
You've hit the nail on the head. The Muddy River Restoration project is just that: a river and shoreline restoration. The areas of the park outside of the immediate shoreline will have to be worked on by separate projects.
 

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