On Saturday, September 28th, the Friends of the Malden River held the Cruise in a Canoe event, which ran from 10 A.M to 1 P.M with a 45 minute time slot. Anybody could attend, however, minors had to be accompanied by someone above the age of 18. The event was free, and no rowing experience was required. 

The sun was shining bright and the sky was clear, perfect weather for going out onto the river. There were several YMCA leaders volunteering who were out helping people get in and out of canoes, and loading canoes onto the river.

YMCA leaders volunteering at the event. Photo taken by Carlos Aragon Aldana.

The event was part of something much larger than just showing people that the river was safe. There was a Public Health Risk study sponsored by MIT, Mystic River Watershed, FOMR, and many others. Karen Buck, president of Friends of the Maple River (FOMR), shed some light on the situation. She stated that the Malden River was heavily polluted during the industrial age, from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s, which included “around 27 companies on the shoreline, and a lot of them were just dumping.” They dumped things from asphalt to rubber which caused a concern for whether or not the river was safe to boat on.

Other attendees included Mayor Christenson, and Councillor Ryan O’Malley, who brought his dog, Silva, who happily got onto the canoe as well.

Councillor O’Malley’s dog Silva on a Canoe. Photo taken by Carlos Aragon Aldana.

It was mentioned that associations did an intensive study where they took their conservative estimates on a person who was on a crew team for eight years, and fell in 138 times a year. They took the scenario, and the verdict was that the risk for cancer from the sediments was negligible. She added that it was “a public assessment, so it’s not based off of individuals.” One individual may be more susceptible, however the general public should be unaffected by the sediments.

Buck stated that “[they are] celebrating that it’s safe to boat on the river, and what better way to celebrate that it’s safe than to boat than to boat itself?”

Essentially, the Malden River does not have the best reputation out of all the rivers, partially because of all that has happened during the industrial era. The river is severely underutilized with only a bit of land around it belonging to the city where FOMR hosted the event. One of the biggest aims that FOMR has is to build a path along the river similar to the bike path where residents could walk around even though it will be a difficult task. 

Dan Koff, with Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), mentioned that “planning could be a 10, 20, 30 year process.” For it to go slowly, he says that it is “important that the public stays engaged.” Koff stated that the event is both to “bring people to the river, get them excited about being part of the planning process, and help define what kind of public space we should have in this city.”

Citizens rowing on the Malden River. Photo taken by Carlos Aragon Aldana.

Zoe Davis, with the Mystic River Watershed Association, stated that “the idea is for people to get a sense of the waterfront to what is now, both here, and down the river.” The event allowed people to see the river and also hear the potential for walking paths and a usable waterfront.

Davis stated that Mystic River is “partnering with the city, MAPC, and community groups like Friends of the Malden River.” They are laying the foundation for the whole planning process and also helping make the connection between all the entities involved in the process. Davis described them as “the glue that’s bringing things together.”

There are several other projects Buck mentioned, including building a park, and organizing a steering community with an emphasis on inclusivity for both race and teenagers. Buck stated that she could be contacted at friendsofthemaldenriver@gmail.com for both information on upcoming events, and also to find out how to join the Friends of the Malden River. Buck added that “[they] were looking for youth to help revitalize the river.”

For more pictures of the Cruise in a Canoe event click here


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