2023 Year in Review

This past year Bike to the Sea continued its focus on making meaningful connections – not only to important destinations but to new community members across all five municipalities (and beyond) spanning the Northern Strand Community Trail. The completion of the Northern Strand Trail has been nothing short of transformational, with tens of thousands of new and existing users discovering (and rediscovering) the benefits of this completed 10-mile shared use path as a critical link for transportation, recreation, and conservation.

B2C’s three “pillars of action” were carried out in force in 2023:

  1. Improve and expand access to the trail for people who walk, bike, and roll
  2. Activate the trail through community events and installations
  3. Advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) proactively

Looking back, 2023 will be remembered fondly as the year B2C embarked on one of its most ambitious projects, creating its own trailside bicycle repair facility, or “Bike Kitchen.” This unique DIY bicycle maintenance and repair space was based on the model established by the nearby Somerville Bike Kitchen and takes full advantage of active participation of its members. Funding for this endeavor comes from a number of different sources. Organizational support for the Bike Kitchen was provided through a generous $10,000 grant from the Solomon Family Foundation. Two shipping containers worth $16,000 were gifted by the Lynn Brickyard Collaborative. Funds for the Bike Kitchen retrofits, tools, and equipment were provided by the Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant which is offered by MassDEP and managed in Malden through the Office of Mayor Christenson. Donations were also provided by B2C members and partner organizations including shelving, a work table, bins, a vice, storage cubes and containers. Malden-based All-Tech Electric connected the electrical service. The Bike Kitchen sits on a parcel adjacent to the Northern Strand Trail on Canal Street, proximate to Malden Center, Everett, and Medford and will be operated by Bike to the Sea members/volunteers beginning in spring 2024. Members are encouraged to get involved with this amazing new resource! Contact us at bk@biketothesea.org for more information.

As winter gave way to spring, B2C resumed rides, trail clean-ups, invasive plant species removal and other trail-related activities. April saw the return of our annual April Fool’s Ride. In June, the annual Bike to the Sea Day continued as the B2C’s signature ride, with nearly 100 riders enduring rainy conditions to mark the event. In July the annual B2C Sand Sculpture Ride to Revere Beach took place, followed in October by a triumphant Fall Colors Ride with 75 riders taking part! In addition to these cornerstone events, new rides were introduced for maximum inclusion regarding the community’s diverse residents: trilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) family friendly rides co-sponsored by Cambridge Health Alliance as well as the third annual Malden Chinese Culture Connection “Bike to the Moon” ride. Equally important was the B2C-led first annual ride with new partners Latino Outdoors, resulting in new memberships and increased awareness of the Northern Strand Trail and our organization.

(Photo Credit: Irene Yee)

Led by the stellar efforts of Executive Director Jonah Chiarenza, Bike to the Sea rotated its monthly board and member meetings in-person and online via ZOOM during 2023. Throughout the year, B2C was able to host bi-monthly member meetings in person at 3 Amigos in Malden, as well as hosting trivia nights at Aeronaut Cannery in Everett, providing a mutual lift for attendees and the businesses alike. With the support of our Program Manager, Agnes Recato, B2C continued to increase communications and trail initiatives through the five municipalities. A direct result of this additional outreach and engagement has been increased partnership opportunities with bordering towns such as Melrose, Medford, Winthrop, Wakefield and Stoneham – proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the far-reaching benefits the trail has created. In fact, our newly elected President Patrick Bibbins (Medford) and Vice-Pesident Dan Krechmer (Melrose) are also active members of their respective bicycle and pedestrian advisory boards. They replace longstanding President Janet Green and Vice-President Jay Cobau, much loved and respected for their tireless years of dedicated service!

Finally, our annual November meeting was another well-attended in-person celebration, held a stones throw from the trail in Lynn with our good friends at Old Tyme Italian Cuisine. Our guest speaker was none other than Dr. Brian Sutton, older brother of longtime board member Pete Sutton. In the summer of 2023, Brian set off to conquer the Great American Rail Trail, cycling coast-to-coast 3700 miles from Washington state to Washington DC. Along the way, “Doc” Sutton experienced the work-in-progress firsthand, while raising funds for his local organization, the Friends of the Columbia Greenway in Westfield.

2023 is also the year Bike to the Sea hired our first full-time employee. Buoyed by generous $25,000 donations from the Solomon Family Foundation and Hub Luv, Bike to the Sea set out to raise additional funding from members to promote Agnes Recato to full-time Program Manager. In October, Bike to the Sea was excited to announce an anonymous matching challenge grant of $15,000 – and our community responded enthusiastically, with nearly 90 people donating over $7,000. In combination with grant funding from MassTrails, AARP, and Save the Bay, Agnes’ position was funded for a full year. Agnes brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to our organization, including:

  • Sustainable design, green infrastructure, and biophilia
  • Bicycle industry experience including bicycle touring and rental coordination
  • Public outreach, event planning, and event management

Together, Agnes and Bike to the Sea will continue to:

  • Grow our existing events and plan new ones
  • Expand community outreach and engagement
  • Advocate for trail extensions to Nahant and Somerville
  • Support safe, equitable walking, biking, and rolling access

Upon completion, the Northern Strand Trail will provide a continuous off-road car-free corridor for transportation and recreation from the Mystic River to the Nahant shoreline, passing through and connecting the communities of Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus, and Lynn. In 2024, Bike to the Sea will continue to advance future connections to the Northern Strand from Nahant and Revere Beaches, in addition to several envisioned concepts here. Expect a ribbon cutting event in Everett during the spring as the final segment under Route 16 is now completed!

Highlights by town included: 

Everett

The City completed work on the latest segment which now extends the Northern Strand Trail further southward to the waterfront. Construction wrapped over the fall and now extends the trail from its previous terminus at West/ Wellington Streets one mile southward under Route 16 to the Mystic River – connecting to the Encore Boston Harbor resort.  The projects included new retaining walls, protective fencing, boardwalk over wetlands and the paved shared use path. This extension will eventually connect with the future Mystic River Crossing bridge, which is funded for construction beginning in 2024. In related projects, Everett DPW continues to plan on expanding waterfront access along the Malden River with the addition of boardwalks, new recreational areas and boat launches. Expect an official ribbon-cutting opening ceremony in the spring!

Malden

An idea B2C has been mulling for over a year finally took shape, opening its own “bike kitchen” in Malden. The Canal St location – adjacent to the trail near Hoff’s Bakery – is envisioned to be a one-stop shop for cyclists needing quick repairs, maintenance advice and a meet-up place for Bike to the Sea members. B2C worked with the City, Payette Architects and Wayside Trailer to retrofit two shipping containers to host these DIY bike repair clinics and our volunteer bike fix-it activities. We’ll be looking for members to help make this dream happen, especially if you are handy with a wrench and want to help out, or have bicycles to donate. Contact us at bk@biketothesea.org for more information.

The Spot Pond Brook Greenway advanced into MassDOT’s project universe by officially being funded $4 million for construction in 2027. The greenway is envisioned to connect Oak Grove to the Northern Strand via downtown Malden and is part of the much larger regional Mystic Highlands Greenway initiative. In November, members of the community from Stoneham, Wakefield, Melrose, Malden, staff from Bike to the Sea, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and Office of Senator Jason Lewis, rode together at different meeting points to designate The Mystic Highlands Greenway route as a family-friendly, low-stress route. Bike to the Sea is leading a MassTrails grant on behalf of Stoneham, Wakefield, Melrose, and Malden, to confirm the final alignment and install signs and wayfinding along the Mystic Highlands Greenway.

Revere

The beginning of the year marked progress in B2C exploring future connections between the Northern Strand and unquestionably the City’s greatest natural resource – Revere Beach. In the spring, B2C board members – in partnership with the Solomon Foundation and the City of Revere – completed a feasibility study that examined the best and safest routing between the trail and Revere Beach. The study included existing conditions of potential routes between Linden Square in Malden and the beach; potential upgrades to Malden St in the form of a shared use path and adaptive reuse of underutilized pedestrian bridges over Town Line Brook connecting to existing playgrounds and other public-owned lands. 

Saugus

In January, B2C’s annual winter walk took in two noteworthy sites along the Saugus waterfront: a future river walk along Ballard St, restoring the boat launch area and Vitale Park. The other was the large open space adjacent to the trail formerly known as the Bacon property. B2C hopes to collaborate with partners at DCR and Solomon Foundation to repurpose the former construction staging area into new parkland in the coming years. Planning also continues with the Town of Saugus on improving lighting along portions of the trail, as well as connections between the NSCT and Saugus Iron Works and the future Riverwalk. The scenic overlook along the Saugus River continues to offers stellar panoramic views and ample bird sighting opportunities, such as osprey.

Lynn

The third and final leg of the NSCT – extending the trail (via protected bike lanes) on local streets through downtown Lynn to the waterfront advanced ever closer to becoming reality. Thanks to the support of B2C and our many partners and advocates, in 2023 MassDOT advanced funding and design for the continuation of the Northern Strand Trail as an off-street, separated two-way bike lane from Western Ave in Lynn to the Nahant Rotary. As of this writing, construction bids are being reviewed for the $11 million project and construction is slated to begin in spring 2024! Plans to road diet the Lynnway is now in the preliminary stages, utilizing a $20 million Federal RAISE grant award, with the completed project connecting the NSCT with a new shared use path. Lynn officials are also actively redeveloping their waterfront to include new housing and the future Harbor Park, which would also realize additional trail connections. All projects – completed and planned – continued to generate much positive input in transforming Lynn into a destination bike and pedestrian-friendly city. 

 Northern Strand Trail is on Google Streetview!