West Roxbury Walks

By Rickie Harvey
As published in The West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Particularly in this lovely fall New England weather, it is hard not to want to get outside, enjoy the crisp air and colorful leaves, and walk. Walking accrues many benefits, of course, not least of which are saving energy (avoiding driving the car, which not only uses gas but puts harmful carbons into the air) and using energy (our body’s, which burns calories and helps keep us fit).

Among West Roxbury’s green gems suitable for walking is Millennium Park, off the VFW Parkway. The park has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The creation of Millennium Park exemplifies good planning use for a former landfill that resulted in an extremely successful and environmentally pleasing recreational space. In a project spearheaded by West Roxbury resident Alice Hennessey starting in 1994, the former site of the Gardner Street landfill was capped and covered over with dirt excavated from the Big Dig construction site in downtown Boston. In 2000, Millennium Park opened and currently boasts six miles worth of handicapped-accessible walking paths, a nature trail, playing fields, a canoe launch on the Charles River, and from its highest point, marvelous views of Boston and its surrounds.

Walkscore.com rates the location of your home for its “walkability,” and while West Roxbury’s scores vary somewhat depending on distance of a particular address from Centre Street, much of our town qualifies as “very walkable.” The condos at 37 Hastings St., for example, rate the outstanding “very walkable” score of 89 out of 100 on the scale. The criteria for rating a location includes proximity to restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, shopping schools, parks, books, bars, entertainment and post office. (A public transportation score is calculated separately.)

On the other hand, such farther reaches of West Roxbury as Willowdean Avenue (just off the VFW Parkway) score a “somewhat walkable” number of 55. Somewhere in the middle would be Grayfield Street (which runs between Corey and Mt. Vernon streets), which rates a 74.

The available walking paths at Millennium Park constitute one way in which West Roxbury could be described as a “walkable” town. In addition, the town itself ranks high in its “walkable” merits by allowing residents to walk to services, restaurants and shopping. As defined on walkscore.com’s home page, “Walkable neighborhoods offer surprising benefits to the environment, our health, our finances, and our communities.”

The site continues by describing how and why this is true: “Environment: cars are a leading cause of climate change. Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines. Health: the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 7 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. Finances: one point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property. Communities: studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10 percent.”

The city of Boston as a whole comes in third in the nation behind only San Francisco and New York in walkability by this website’s calculations, so wherever you like to do your walking, our city and town both have much to offer. Why not put on your walking shoes, leave the car keys behind, and hit the pavement or the parks in order to save energy and to enjoy the healthiness of getting your legs moving?