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Alewife Reservation – A Case Study for Implementing Restoration Strategies in an Urban Wild

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The Alewife Reservation is one of metropolitan Boston's largest urban wilds, possessing great significance as an environmental, historical and recreational resource. It includes the remnants of the much larger Great Swamp, once a prominent Native American anadromous fishing and hunting grounds. Paul Revere galloped over the Alewife Brook bridge on his way to Lexington while blueback herring sought calmer waters beneath. Tanneries and slaughterhouses later lined its shores, and the river and its meadows were eventually “improved” (straightened and culverted) in 1916 for sanitation purposes. Combined sewer overflows (CSO's) along the corridor currently impact water quality entering Boston Harbor and low-lying communities within the floodplain.

Today the reservation still provides valuable ecological functions such as wildlife habitat, stormwater runoff management and floodplain storage in the highly urbanized Mystic River Watershed. Its size and isolation from residential development contribute to its value for passive recreation and as a contiguous wildlife corridor. The Alewife Brook and its adjacent open space provide a vital link in the regional park system, linking the Fresh Pond Reservation to the Mystic River greenway. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is leading the effort to restore the 115-acre Alewife Reservation, including the Little River and Alewife Brook.

Keywords: Alewife Brook; Alewife Reservation; Urban wild; bioretention basin; combined sewer overflow; riparian restoration; stormwater wetland; watershed

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-01-01

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