A boardwalk takes shape

Looking north from the Henderson St. Bridge on July 13.

The bones of the last boardwalk segment of the Alewife Greenway rose up last week following a week off.

The work is unfolding on the Somerville bank of the Alewife Brook just north of the Henderson Street Bridge near my house in East Arlington.

At the start of the week things looked as they had on July 13 (photo at right). Metal and wooden supports march side by side along the brook’s eastern bank. That’s Route 16 on the right.

Looking north two weeks later (July 27).

By Friday the 27th (left) the shape of the path to be had become more apparent. The boardwalk will hang over the bank and the edge of the brook itself.

By comparison construction mostly took the week of the 16th off. On Tuesday the 17th someone from the DCR did come by to mow along the path.

It may also have been at that time that some of the stumps you can see in photos of the bank got whittled back to make room for the boardwalk.

We normally get one mow per year and already got our annual haircut in June. It would be nice to suppose that the DCR plans to maintain the area better after improving it so much.

A patch of sunshine illuminates the bole of a tree toppled by extreme weather on July 18, The tree lies across the Alewife.

The next day at around 6 pm East Arlington got hit with our second microburst in as many years. This is a violent weather event that toppled mature trees. One of them fell across the brook; that’s the bole of the tree facing us in Arlington and the crown over in Cambridge.

The root structure of this tree was not very extensive. I took advantage of this opportunity to photograph the outer lip of the concrete shell that contains the Alewife Brook.

The hole left by the toppled tree gives a glimpse of the Alewife’s concrete bed.

This artificial channelization of the Alewife was performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a hundred years ago to control flooding and disease, though I can’t say for certain that the concrete in this photograph is that old.

The original plans for the Greenway included removing the concrete jacket and stabilizing the banks of the brook through more natural means. I think that proved too expensive; in any case the lining stays.

Work picked up the week of July 23, with most of the visible changes at the end of the week.

On Monday, a small silver trailer parked itself along the path, and I saw two men walking and talking along the lower bank. One of them grabbed one of the wooden support posts and pulled hard.

Looking north from, and partially through the railing of, the Henderson St. Bridge on July 24.

Lumber in place on July 25.

Here they are on Tuesday morning, still talking things over (above). A white canopy is set up behind the trailer in the background.

By the end of the day on Wednesday things were set up to start building the rest of the supporting structure for the boardwalk.

Note how cross supports have been fabricated by nailing 2 x 6s together and notching them to fit into the metal brackets, which have also been fastened to the wooden posts earlier that day.

Workers finish fitting supports into brackets on Friday July 27.

Work proceeded rapidly from south to north on Thursday and Friday. Things are finishing up at the northern end in the photo at left, taken at 10 AM on Friday.

Each cross beam is braced with a diagonal support.

Also on Thursday some of the new concrete anchor that we saw poured back in June was chipped away to make room for a wooden support.

These boards rest in a notch made in the end of the concrete anchor at the southern end.

By now it’s Monday the 30th and work has already progressed further today. But I’m calling it quits here for fear of falling even further behind; anyway this is more than plenty.

This blog is about Mass. Ave. (it is! it is!) but the action last week was by the brook, so what are you going to do?

I now have a whole collection of Alewife posts that show, more or less, the progress of construction in my neighborhood (and a little bit beyond). If you like this sort of thing dive in: first, previous, all. Update: And next.


4 comments so far

  1. Ruth on

    Nice blogging! Thanks to your careful reporting, I got to observe this process from the comfort of my computer chair! Hope this project is a net gain for our area, and thanks for keeping a monitoring eye on its progress.
    Ruth in Medford Hillside

    • Adam Auster on

      Thanks, Ruth, but it is better in person! You probably have come to see for yourself, but if not, you should.

  2. Jim O on

    Nice to meet you yesterday, and thanks for your work on this blog.

    I am a huge fan of the Alewife Brook Greenway — I’m on the path a few times a week.

    I’d been wondering what the tent and trailer signified…

    • Adam Auster on

      The pleasure was mine, Jim.

      As you know, things were busy on the path this week. I am readying another installment.

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