Thursday, June 16, 2011

Charles River Memories, Part XI, A Walk on the Charles

1. Archie’s Report.
2. Prior reports in this series.

1. Archie’s Report.


By Archie Mazmanian

[Note: I defer for a few weeks addressing the roles of Harvard, MIT and Boston University regarding the Charles River until I have had an opportunity to explore the MA Transportation Department’s considerations of the Grand Junction Rail Line that passes under the BU Bridge for commuter transit. I understand a meeting is planned at the Morse School in Cambridge today (June 16th) on this subject. I shall not be able to attend but trust that this Blog will cover the meeting.]

For a week or so, I had been planning to go to the Houghton Library in Harvard Yards to take in an exhibit on Wendell Phillips. Yesterday (June 15th) was such a pleasant day, after several dismal ones, that I decided to walk there from my home in the Cottage Farm Section of Brookline.

I started shortly after 9:00 AM. Crossing Commonwealth Avenue at the BU Bridge was time consuming with its heavy traffic. This was my first time on foot on the BU Bridge since the bridge construction started what seems years ago. The views easterly remain spectacular. I spent a few minutes looking down on the Grand Junction Rail Line trestle under the bridge. While there is only one set of tracks, the structure might permit for a second set. Of course, there remains on a distant transportation planning table the utilization of this trestle for Phase 2 of the dormant Urban Ring Project. I tried to observe the small wooded area between the bridge and the BU Boathouse but was unable to discern any activity in the Goose Ghetto.

Crossing from the bridge to the westerly side was a chore because of the construction and traffic, taking up quite a few minutes. I had never before walked along the Charles on the Cambridge side west of the BU Bridge. On foot, I was amazed with the large footprint of Magazine Beach. There was not much activity there, perhaps because it was a weekday. But there was much construction going on (in addition to the BU Bridge work) for the new pedestrian overpass that hopefully will provide safety to pedestrians wishing to enjoy Magazine Beach.

I stopped from time to time to look at the rhythmic sculling on the Charles and at structures on the Boston side; I also looked at structures on the Cambridge side. The perspective afoot is much more gratifying than in driving, noticing things I hadn’t noticed before. Along this stretch of the Charles, the Boston banks are either non existing or desolate. I imagined how years ago on a hot summer’s day the throng of crowds at Magazine Beach enjoying its pleasures. Maybe, just maybe, after the construction is completed, we might see such activity – as well as the return of the Charles River White Geese.

The Doubletree Inn seems to fit with its colors from the Cambridge side. But I’m not as sure about the BU high rise dorms on the old Commonwealth Armory site, where, in a few years a third high rise dorm is planned.

And the Genzyme building seems to be a better fit viewed from the Cambridge side, even with its scaffolding as its expansion continues. But then we come to the new Harvard dorms, low and high rising. After viewing these dorms for several minutes, I felt the need for an eye exam. I wonder if others have had the same feeling of myopia.

Some of the structures on the Cambridge side are striking – but some should be struck down. I noticed what appeared to me to be a new pocket park for the first time. (Maybe it’s been there and just never noticed it.) It looks great. Perhaps on my next walk, I’ll cross Memorial Drive to spend some time there.

The bridges west of the BU Bridge are very pretty and graceful, even though they need maintenance, some of which is taking place. Watching a scull racing under an arch is truly an enjoyable sight.

I did not go all the way to the Weld Boathouse before crossing Memorial Drive to head to my destination. All in all, with all the fits of construction and stops to look and listen, my trip took just under an hour at a leisurely pace. So I guesstimate that it was no more than a two mile trip. And it was enjoyable, especially with the good weather. I’ll have to do this again to see and enjoy even more than I did on this trip. (By the way, after my visit at the Houghton Library, I took the Red Line to Central and then the 47 bus back to Brookline.)

In an earlier part of this series, I expressed the thought of public transit on the Charles, perhaps between the Esplanade and Watertown Square, at least on pleasant spring, summer and fall days. That would provide yet another perspective of the jewel that is our Charles River.

2. Prior reports in this series.

Part X, 5/9/11:

Part IX, 4/29/11:

Part VIII, 4/20/11:

Part VII, 4/16/11:

Part VI,4/11/11:

Intermission, 4/1/11:

Part V, 3/29/11:

Part IV, 3/7/11:

Part III, 2/19/11:

Part II, 2/5/11:

Part I, 1/29/11: