Art garden on the Alewife

A new platform on December 2

Work crews returned to the Left Bank of the Alewife on December 2 (or maybe Dec. 1) to cast these concrete platforms in the rectangles they’d dug November 30.

They also piled dirt into the the swale just south of the Cottage Ave. entrance. That’s one of the the big trenches that had been dug last summer and lined with stone and gravel, to help with drainage.

The next day, a fresh trail of dirt down Cottage Ave. led me back to the swale.

Crews filled all but one of the swales on December 3

Grass seed on the swale

It had been filled in completely — and seeded with grass.

Grass sprouts on the path bank

I must have missed when they seeded the banks of the path, but I saw that grass was already growing there. (Click photos for close-ups.)

All of the Cambridge swales looked filled too, and all but one on the Arlington side, just north of Cottage Ave.

On Dec 6, crews partially covered the swale with rotted burlap, like some kind of Christo installation gone wrong. (That’s the environmental artist, not  Christo’s Market in East Arlington.) Two other swales were covered as well.

An artistic swath of (rotted) burlap over the filled swale

On December 7 the remaining empty swale north of Cottage Ave. was filled, and all the other swales were covered with burlap, including those on the Cambridge side.

The landscapers must have really gotten into their work at that point because some of the path banks in Cambridge got burlapped too. (The swale near my neighbor’s house just south of Cottage Ave. is still partially uncovered though).

The next day, December 8, I saw some intense activity near the Henderson St. Bridge, where there is supposed to be a boardwalk ramp. I was driving and unable to take a look, but I thought they were sinking girders into the ground. The work continued past dark.

I got up early the next morning for photos of a very strange structure indeed.

View north from south of Henderson Street Bridge, December 9

From a distance it looked like an unlikely support for a ramp, were the ramp to gain all its height near the start and then float four or five feet high until the ground rose to meet it near the bridge.

Rube Goldberg would be proud

Closer inspection ruled out even that.

These massive girders were balanced on haphazard stacks of wood and skinny metal struts sunk into the ground.

At that point the first crew member arrived, who explained that the purpose of the thing was to test the soil in advance of making anchors for the boardwalk.

Not a structure at all but a contraption.

Contraption detail

He said there were “a million consultants” involved; they started to arrive just as I left at 7:30 to catch my bus.

At end of day the contraption looked basically the same, a little neatened up and with more warning tape.

Between the burlap and the metal-and-wood contraption, things felt a little like an hidden precinct of the deCordova sculpture park. We just needed tasteful little cards:

Soil Test (Iron and Wood)
Collection of Department of Conservation and and Recreation.

The contraption remains in place at year’s end, listing a little to port perhaps.

Testing the soil near the Henderson Street Bridge

There is one more thing that happened in the path in December, but it really deserves its own post.

The view north on the path from Cottage Ave., December 31

Happy new year from the banks of the Alewife!

Other Alewife posts: Next, First, All. Oh, and in January, benches.


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