Saturday, May 18, 2024

Granite seat walls looking over the Charles River are features of a restored Magazine Beach Park in Cambridgeport. (Photo: Department of Conservation and Recreation)

Magazine Beach has reopened after around $3 million in renovations over the past eight years, Cathie Zusy, president of Magazine Beach Partners, announced Thursday.

The work included the restoration of the Charles River shoreline – with invasive species removed and native shrubs, trees and more than 4,000 wetland plugs installed – and a widened and regraded shoreline path; the rehabilitation of a historic Powder Magazine with an expanded, accessible bluestone terrace, granite seat walls and new benches; the completion of a new spray deck; and, back in September, the opening of a canoe and kayak launch.

Funding came through a public-private partnership among the neighborhood Magazine Beach Partners, city government and state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns and runs a riverfront park variously described as 15 or 17 acres.

A shoreline path at the park has been widened and regraded, and invasive species of plant life removed and replaced. (Photo: Cathie Zusy)

Over the years, the site has been a wooded estuary, gunpowder storage, a river bathing beach, a boathouse for rowers, a stormwater sewage treatment plant and a favorite picnicking and recreation spot. At this point it’s probably best remembered for drawing as many as 60,000 summertime swimmers – though that was now decades ago.

Its 1818 Powder Magazine is the oldest structure in the Charles River Basin, Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner Jim Montgomery said. In addition to storing ammunition, the magazine has been a bathhouse and park storage building; in 2015, the state began exploring ideas for what would fill it after renovations. “The million dollar-question is what will the Powder Magazine be used for,” the Magazine Beach blog said in October, but a serious state process didn’t begin in time for the season, and not before coronavirus arrived.

“I would hope DCR would start looking for a tenant for next summer, but who’ll know where we’ll be then?” Zusy said Saturday.

Even without the Powder Magazine, there is a lot of acreage and amenities for people to enjoy themselves in at the riverside park, even while social distancing. “The pandemic has made us much more aware of the importance of available public open space,” Zusy said. “We are so grateful for the city and state’s investment at the park and look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come.”

There are still “really big things” that need to happen there, Zusy said, including replacing a section of sunken pavement with grass, and planting more trees. “We’ve lost so many old-growth trees” across the city, she said.

A Thursday press release from the state included comments from City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, state Rep. Jay Livingstone and state Sen. Joe Boncore suggesting that people get to the park to enjoy the renovation of the resource.

“This is something to be really happy about,” Zusy said Saturday.

The park, formally at 668 Memorial Drive, makes up the southwest base of the Cambridgeport neighborhood, stretching from Pleasant Street to the Boston University Bridge and across the street from the Morse Elementary and a shopping center that includes a Trader Joe’s. By public transportation, take the MBTA green line to the Central BU stop, cross the bridge and walk to the park, or take the red line to Central Square and walk down Magazine Street; it’s accessible by a footbridge that crosses Memorial Drive. It’s open until 7 p.m. daily.