By Beth Treffeisen
On a rainy Friday afternoon, close to a hundred people packed into a crowded room at Emmanuel College to celebrate the completion of Phase I of the Muddy River Flood Risk Management Project, the start of Phase II of the project and to break ground on the park named after the late Boston Parks Commissioner Justine Mee Liff Park.
“It is so exciting that the Army Corps of Engineers manufactured rain so that we can see the water go through the wonderful engineering project today,” joked Chris Cook the commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation. “But everyone knows why we’re here today and it is to celebrate the completion of Phase I.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker joined federal, state and local partners and advocates to mark the completion of the $30.9 million project that runs through the communities of Boston and Brookline.
“It’s always a pleasure to have an opportunity to participate in a ribbon cutting,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Especially for a closing of Phase I and opportunity to kick off Phase II. This is a perfect example of local, state, federal governments and other partners working together.”
The project involves removal or replacement of undersized culverts, stream bank protection and dredging approximately 96,980 cubic yards of sediment to increase the flow capacity of the Muddy River and provide flood damage reduction against the recurrence of a 20-year event.
The project will take place over two phases. Phase I involved replacement of two undersized culverts, day-lighting two sections of the river and modification of a bridge and culvert headwall.
Phase II involves dredging restricted areas of the river to increase flow capacity.
Secretary Mathew Beaton of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environment Affairs said that the Muddy River is known to carry the legacy of Fredrick Olmstead by preserving open space and history.
After the storm of 1996 that caused millions of dollars of damage in flooding in the nearby neighborhoods, Beaton said that was the seed that started the river restoration.
“It has been a tremendous partnership and monumental example on how things can get done,” said Beaton. “We need do our part to not only this phase but also I’m very much looking forward to Phase II.”
Last year the Army Corps of Engineers lost a key engineer, Michael Keegan. There will be a bench dedicated to his many hours of work in the Justine Liff Park.
As part of this upcoming years City of Boston capital budget, Mayor Walsh secured $100,000 for the maintenance of the Muddy River.
“This is a special project that brought the state and local government together and that is not always a peaceful transaction,” said Mayor Walsh. “But the community really set the tone early for this and I want to say thank you to them.”
Walsh said that he hopes to continue to work towards making the Emerald Necklace more accessible and available to the public to use. He thanked the many advocates who worked towards making the parks that Boston has today including the late Justine Liff.
“Justine did have a vision and it is being brought to life everyday,” said Mayor Walsh. “I want to thank everyone for naming a part of the park after her.”
Stephen Liff, the husband of the late Justine Liff was proud to honor his wife in this park. He told of the story of how she really wanted to get rid of the ‘useless’ Sears parking lot that blocked off part of the river from daylight.
“She had a clear and confident vision on what she wanted,” said Liff. “Sears was never going to give up that parking lot, ever, even if it was useless. But, she wanted that parking lot and wanted it bad.”
The second the owners changed hands he said, Justine pounced and finally got the parking lot back and then moved to restore it.
“She had a short and terrific life, and loved her job, and loved Boston,” said Liff. “I want to thank you Boston for naming this ‘missing link’ after her.”