The Roslindale Arboretum Gateway Path is a vision for a 1 ½ mile shared use bicycle and pedestrian path connecting Roslindale Village and Forest Hills through the historic Arnold Arboretum. In December 2015, LivableStreets Alliance, the Emerald Network, and community partner WalkUP Roslindale commissioned our graduate student team from Tufts University’s Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program to create a planning study for the path. This planning study provides an in depth outline of the Gateway Path by considering community demographics and path benefits, documenting responses to the path during a months-long community engagement process, and recommending a range of options for implementation.
The path would create a new and more accessible entrance to welcome residents and visitors to the Arboretum. From this entrance the path would run adjacent to the Roslindale Village Commuter Rail platform and continue at grade along current MBTA owned land into the southernmost corner of the Arboretum. As the Gateway Path enters the Arboretum it would roughly follow either option A or option B. Either option would connect the Gateway Path to the proposed Blackwell Path extension, through the Bussey Brook Meadow, and on to Forest Hills.
Key goals for the Gateway Path are to create better access to the Arboretum from Roslindale, as well as an alternative transit route for pedestrians and bicyclists travelling between Roslindale Village and Forest Hills. This new low-stress connection would then allow travelers to connect to the Southwest Corridor path, the MBTA Orange Line, and the Emerald Network, a LivableStreets initiative envisioning 200 miles of seamless greenways across the Boston metropolitan area. Additionally, we review the broad benefits ascribed to community paths in the professional and academic literature, which include varying degrees of increased mobility, public health, economic activity, and environmental benefits.
The Gateway Path Steering Committee, consisting mainly of Roslindale community volunteers with staff support from LivableStreets, guided our work during bi-weekly conference calls. The steering committee played a vital leadership role in determining project timelines, leading the coordination of a community workshop, reaching out to local decision makers, and securing project support. In addition to the guidance from the steering committee, we also conducted 17 key informant interviews, reached out to nearby abutters, conducted an online community survey with 685 responses from predominantly Roslindale residents, and hosted a Community Visioning Workshop at the Roslindale Community Center with over 100 participants. Demographic mapping of MassGIS data revealed the existence of several Environmental Justice communities surrounding the Gateway Path that should be actively involved in future planning and further community engagement efforts on the Path.
During our community conversations we found overwhelming energy and excitement in support of the path. The results of these efforts showed that community priorities include safety and security, which led to community members advocating for lighting and improved pedestrian and bicycle crossing infrastructure. Additionally, there are opportunities to build on the momentum of seven other pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements in various phases of development within the study area.
From our research, we were able to glean implementation strategies around ownership structure, funding sources, and project phasing for the Path. Potential ownership options include the MBTA, the City of Boston, a community group, and the Arboretum. Additionally, we provide federal, state, and local bike and pedestrian funding sources that are applicable to the Gateway Path and recommend project phasing options based on various funding outcomes.
As the research in this planning study demonstrates, this project represents an exciting opportunity for the Arnold Arboretum and the surrounding communities. With a demonstrated commitment from project leaders, documented community support, and a roadmap for future implementation, we are excited to see this project develop in the coming months and years.
Roslindale Arboretum Gateway Path – A Community Vision – Full Report