Sunday, November 9, 2014

Walking All Over the River: The Neponset RiverWalk in Quincy


            A likely never finished vision: walking the length of the Quincy shore, its peninsulas and beaches and the altogether many miles of a shoreline continually interrupted by everything built on it by people and now in private ownership.
            The Neponset River Watershed Association is nevertheless pursuing its own vision. Opened just a month ago, the Quincy RiverWalk is a 2 mile-long walkway along the Neponset River on the Quincy side of the Neponset Bridge (home of the infamous Neponset traffic circle), starting from a familiar landmark, the gazebo of the Adams Inn. From there you walk underneath the bridge and continue on a stitched series of paths and paved sidewalk that runs along the edge of the Squantum Peninsula, connecting to Marina Bay and Squantum Point Park.
            Squantum Point is the end of the line; also the mouth of the Neponset River where it discharges in the Dorchester Bay. That's the name for the part of Massachusetts Bay (or Boston Harbor) where you can look across from Quincy and see the famous Sister Corita Gas Tank in Boston.
            I am also told, by the Watershed Association, that the Quincy RiverWalk is "part of" the Neponset River Reservation, a collection of open space preserves that includes the relatively new John Paul Park and the Neponset Greenway on "the other side of the river." We have walked both these places; they don't appear to connect to each other. The side of the river still keeps secrets from me. The Neponset Greenway is on the Boston/Dorchester side of the river. The little streetcar that runs through a cemetery and goes from Ashmont to Mattapan. As for the Pope's Park, someday the many little trees they planted there will grow big and make the place something more than good open dog-walking space.
            Back to the new RiverWalk (no space permitted between these two words in the official spelling; they must have preserved it). Since the up-river terminus at the gazebo is used for outdoor functions by the Adams Inn, it surprised us to find it open to the public from dawn to dusk. (Top photo shows the view from the gazebo: a pier with cormorants.) Heading downriver, the next feature is called Neponset Landing Park, a nice little spot almost directly under the Neponset Bridge; it includes a bench, some plantings and a fishing pier (second photo). You can park for the spot under the bridge.
            You can also climbs the stairs up to the bridge from this point and walk over to the other side. I'm not sure what you find when you get there.
            Then you walk along a bit of marsh -- we saw a heron there on our first foray a few weeks back -- with a view of the river. But then the sense of "path" runs out as the RiverWalk sends you across a lightly traveled roadway to a sidewalk on the other side of the street.
            This bit of tedium is broken by the Billings Creek salt marsh spur trail that leads you to the interesting discovery of a who-knew? development of naval housing off a road called Commander Shea Blvd. We saw some birds up ahead in this marsh, which eventually sidles up to Marina Bay.(Last photo gives a view of the salt marsh.)
            The spur includes a small canoe or kayak launch. Or, the Watershed Association tells us, we can find a fishing spot along the shore. The spur is supposed to become a loop, but it hasn't yet, as we found out.
            Back on the sidewalk, it's steady on to Squantum Point Park, a site with its own attractions. The open space here was an airfield a century ago, preserving it from development. The park is good for wildflowers and birding and people from Marina Park with dogs and, rarely, kids.
            Then of course you can congratulate yourself for taking a walk by wandering over to the Marina Bay Boardwalk for a snack or, in the right weather, a drink at an outdoor table looking over the bay.
            The great thing about the RiverWalk, or any of these other walks and trails and reservations along the waterfront in Quincy, Boston, or anyplace, especially any urban place, is that they're public. People need to live in cities, in densely populated areas, for a host of reasons including more efficient use of resources. But they need to live close to nature as well, to go on being "human beings" and not hi-functioning soulless machines. And they need to be able to get at it.