Yearly Archives: 2007


by Jesse Noyes, Boston Business Journal

Peter Lynch is still flipping for a new skateboarding park in Boston.

The Lynch Foundation, which is headed up by former Fidelity Investments manager Peter Lynch and his wife, Carolyn, is donating $500,000 to the nonprofit Charles River Conservancy (CRC) for the construction of a skateboard park under the Zakim Bridge.

The Lynch’s had already donated $100,000 to the park, which the CRC is billing as a future safe haven for youth in Boston and Cambridge.

The additional $500,000 grant is also a challenge issued to CRC, since the money is contingent on the organization raising an additional $100,000.

Renata von Tscharner, president and founder of CRC, is sure the extra $100,000 will come in. “We are confident that now that we are close to the end there were will be generous skateboarding partners and organizations,” he said.

Thus far CRC has received donations from more than 20 foundations and 300 individuals and other organizations, including the state of Massachusetts, the city of Cambridge and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, von Tscharner said. In all, more than $2 million has been raised, she said, adding that the Lynch Foundation has been the largest single donor.

CRC hopes to break ground in March. Project planners say that event couldn’t come soon enough for the kids wanting to get access to the park. “If you are a 13 year old, you would like that skate park to be built right away,” von Tscharner said.


by Staff Writers, The Allston-Brighton TAB

Allston, Mass – Moving steadily forward in its plan to illuminate the bridges that span the Charles River between Watertown Square and the Charles River Dam, the Charles River Conservancy announces the addition of permanent lighting on the River Street Bridge …(more)


by Richard Cherecwich, GateHouse News Service

Allston, Mass. – The abutment on the Allston side of the Eliot Bridge is eroding. A rock-covered pathway cuts down a hill beside the bridge, and exposed roots from adjacent trees threaten to trip even the most cautious of passersby …(more)


by Pam Belluck, New York Times

BOSTON, July 21 — There were a few things swimmers needed to know before slipping into the Charles River for the big race on Saturday.

No diving start to this race, lest that stir up the toxic sediment at the bottom of the river. Do not expect to see the river bottom. The water is too murky.
Be prepared to encounter bits of flotsam and jetsam.

And, as Ulla Hester, director of the first official Charles River Swim Race, announced shortly before the event: Because the water is dotted with a kind of bacterium known as blue-green algae, “there is a possibility of skin irritation.”

Ms. Hester assured swimmers there would be “showers to wash off” afterward.

After all, the Charles River, the brownish, brackish body of water between Boston and Cambridge, has been officially off-limits to swimmers for more than 50 years.

Small wonder, after a couple of centuries of being a de facto sewage dump and a cesspool for slaughterhouses, mills and other factories.

“The river was always a very dirty river, since the Industrial Revolution,” said Ben Martens, whose title of “Swimmable Charles Coordinator” for the Charles River Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, “gets a lot of laughs from my friends,” he said.

Beaches and floating bathhouses that were popular on the river in the early 1900s, especially with poor immigrant families who could not afford running water, were closed around 1955 when officials realized how polluted the water was.

And in 1995, when federal officials started grading the river’s cleanliness, the Charles was given a D.

But after a multimillion-dollar cleanup, officials pronounced the river — whose most recent grade was a B-plus — fit to swim most of the time.

Not that it is yet legal to do so. The polluted sediment has so far made it impossible to create a swimming beach.


But when two avid swimmers, Ms. Hester and Frans Lawaetz, asked for permission to organize a swim race, officials eventually agreed.

“I think it’s like the canary in the coal mine,” said Karl Haglund, a project manager for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “If we can get the river clean enough to swim in then we know we’ve made significant progress.”

The swim was originally scheduled in September, but bacteria canceled it.

“I grew up a block from the river in Cambridge, and as a kid we always wanted to swim in it,” said Rick Ackerman, 59, of Portland, Me., the oldest swimmer on Saturday. “I built a raft once and sank in the water. It felt dirty and gritty and the rocks were slimy. This, today, it’s a leap of faith.”

Kiko Bracker, 38, a Boston veterinarian, fashioned a shark’s fin from foam insulation, a sign of his enthusiasm that “the Charles is looking better,” he said. “It’s not catching on fire this year.”

The swimmers warmed up to sun-themed songs — “Walking on Sunshine,” “Here Comes the Sun.” Not included in the soundtrack was the song “Dirty Water,” a 1960s hit by the Standells, that was written about the “River Charles” and is played at Red Sox games as a victory anthem.

All told, 69 experienced swimmers showed up Saturday for the mile-long race near the Longfellow Bridge.

“A lot of my friends thought I was crazy for doing this,” said Katie O’Dair, 40, an associate dean at Boston College. “But I feel confident that the water is clean. I hope it’s the first of many swims here.”

Mike Welsch, 48, whose back is tattooed with phrases and icons of the city — the Citgo sign near Fenway Park, the Boston Lighthouse, the Boston Marathon — said swimming the race “proves I’m a true Bostonian. I’ll tell you, I’ve swum races in the Hudson, the East River and the Harlem River, and this is just as clean as them.”

And Sebastian Neumayer, 24, who won the race with a time of 21 minutes and 37 seconds, pronounced the mid-70-degree water just fine.

“I didn’t see any mattresses,” he said, “so it’s all good.”


by Nicole Haley, Daily News


When Newton resident Renata von Tscharner rides her bike along the Charles River in the morning, she spends more time watching out for cars speeding by the narrow shoulder of Nonantum Road than she does enjoying the scenery.

“Nonantum Road is a very dangerous road,” says von Tscharner, founder and president of the Charles River Conservancy. “Because the road is so wide, people go very fast. It’s an invitation to speed and there is not enough space for a bicycle path.”

Linking the communities of Watertown, Newton, and Brighton, the four-lane roadway stretches from California Street in Watertown to Soldiers Field Road at Parson Street in Brighton. Nonantum Road has been the site of fatal and serious car accidents in recent years and last week state officials secured $250,000 in the fiscal 2008 budget for road improvements.

State Reps. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, Kay Khan and Ruth Balser, both of Newton, and Rachel Kaprielian, D-Watertown, worked together calling attention to the perils of the roadway, which is in the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“It’s great that money has been put in the budget – $250,000 is not enough but it’s a beginning,” von Tscharner said.

Watertown District B Councilor Jonathan Hecht said the funds for the design phase are certainly a step in the right direction.

“It’s really important from a public safety point of view,” he told the TAB & Press on Tuesday.

The money comes in the wake of a $40,000 the Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioned traffic study of the road completed in June 2006. The study, conducted by engineering firm Fay, Spofford and Thorndike, investigated accidents on the roadway from 2002 to 2004. The firm found some disturbing trends with the greatest number of accidents occurring at the Newton intersection of Charlesbank Road and Nonantum Road, with 46 incidents in three years – averaging 15 accidents a year.

In February 2006 a driver and passenger, both Waltham residents, died in an accident at the intersection of Nonantum Road and Water Street in Watertown. Another Waltham man died in 1999 after crashing into a streetlight at that same intersection.

With a posted speed limit of 40 mph, Nonantum Road is about 40 feet wide, with two 10- foot lanes running in each direction. The department’s study made a variety of recommendations including narrowing the roadway down to one lane in each direction, which could provide room for “improved alignment, turning lanes, and wider sidewalks with grassed separations.”

Cost estimates to implement these improvements ranged from $300,000 to $860,000. Koutoujian said the $250,000 in the fiscal 2008 budget has been designated for design phase.

“Once the design is completed, then we’ll have to go back for a third swing in order to get the monies needed to complete the project,” he said.

Hecht said state officials will have to work with Senator Steven Tolman, and others budget to the project, to make that happen budget-wise.

Richard Belkin, co-president of the Newton Corner Neighborhood Association, said in the future, he wants more pedestrian access to the river.

“I think there should be a pedestrian crossing where Charlesbank Road hits Nonantum Road,” Belkin said.

Koutoujian said the danger of Nonantum Road is a regional issue affecting all surrounding communities. He said a close friend who grew up on the Waltham/Newton line was involved in “a terrible accident” on the road and sustained serious injuries. Neighbors living along Nonantum hear crashes on a regular basis and often have property damage to their own parked cars, he said.

“This is something they have to live with every day,” Koutoujian said.

Newton Alderman Scott Lennon said many neighborhood meetings have been held at Newton City Hall and Watertown Town Hall about the road and he is grateful to the state representatives for pushing the project forward.

“It’s been a long process and we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lennon said.

Nicole Haley can be reached at or 781-398-8004. Staff writer Jillian Fennimore contributed to this report.