Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Wiltshire Roadblocks Mystery

A number of years ago, the City of Boston decided only to pave Wiltshire Road in Brighton between Portina Road and Chestnut Hill Avenue (the right-hand, or eastern, section in the map above). This decision left the section of Wiltshire Road between Foster Street and Portina Road (the left-hand, or western, section) as an unpaved path. Note that the western end of Wiltshire Road does not appear as a street on GoogleMaps:

This part of Wiltshire Road -- which I'll informally call "Wiltshire Path" -- has limited use for pedestrians, particularly students heading to or from Edison Middle School. There were large barriers on either end, and the path itself could become quite overgrown in the late summer / early fall. In short, no cars could get through -- exactly what the neighbors wanted, because it has the potential of being a major cut-through street, and hence could bring a lot of traffic next to a neighborhood full of (large) families.

At some point last fall, the barriers were removed altogether. What's more, the grass and shrubs along the "Wiltshire Path" were cleared. The occasional car was seen driving through. Neighbors were both angry and concerned that the traffic would make it dangerous for their children. I can attest that there are many children outside playing in Portina Road on a warm spring afternoon, since it is such a quiet, secluded street.

The big question: Who removed the barriers and cleared the brush?

The "Wiltshire Path" stretch of Wiltshire Road is a permanent City of Boston easement (for a public way) on the 188/192 Foster Street parcels previously owned by the Archdiocese of Boston but sold in 2004 to Boston College. The path abuts another large parcel still owned by the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a non-diocesan order. Oddly, there appear to be pieces of asphalt partially exposed under the dirt, grass, and shrubs, as if it had all been pave at one time. Visual inspection of the northeast corner of the 192 Foster Street property showed that substantial tree-work had been done recently in the thick woods bordering the path. The tree-work included large branch removal, and possibly a few trees, likely done by chainsaw.

Since the barrier removal and brush clearing are far beyond what a couple neighborhood kids could do, there are really only two possibilities: City of Boston or Boston College. Whomever did it had some serious equipment, time, and a strong desire to see the path cleared and/or maintained.

The City has claimed that they didn't do it, and are as perplexed as the neighbors. A Boston College official, Jeanne Levesque, was heard on the April 21, 2007 walking tour -- and later confirmed -- that they didn't do it, either, or know who did.

The good news is that, after much persistence by two gentleladies of the neighborhood, employees of Boston Public Works have brought in a new concrete barrier and installed it on the Portina Road end of the path:

Only a small rock was installed on the Foster Street end, which is not a problem since only one barrier is needed to block vehicular traffic:

The lingering question is: Why did they (whoever it was) remove the barriers and clear the brush?

I'll let the conspiracy theorists have a field day on that one.

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