Representatives of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of the East Boston Greenway will meet with open space advocates and area residents at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 26, to celebrate the renaming of the Greenway in honor of the late community activist Mary Ellen Welch. The event will be held on the East Boston Greenway in front of the Blue Caboose. In the likelihood of inclement weather, this event will be held at ZUMIX, 260 Sumner Street, East Boston.
Welch, who passed away at age 77 on March 7 of this year, was a lifelong local resident, beloved second grade school teacher for 47 ½ years at the O’Donnell Elementary School, and preeminent community activist and mentor who either founded, led, or served on the board of some of the most influential community groups in East Boston.
The groups she worked with read like a “Who’s Who” of neighborhood activism: the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Airport Impacts Relief (AIR), East Boston Community Development Corporation, Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association, and Friends of the East Boston Greenway.
In addition to being a social justice warrior joining Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 march on Washington and fighting against apartheid, Welch took an active role in efforts to mitigate noise, traffic, and development from Logan Airport including Massport’s funding of soundproof windows for homes in communities surrounding the airport and the Maverick Street Mother’s Protest during which local women took to the street with their children to block truck traffic generated by an airport expansion project.
It was a natural outgrowth of these efforts to identify an abandoned railroad line as the perfect place for a protected walking and biking path and new parkland connecting neighborhood residents to Boston Harbor and Constitution Beach. As one of the founders of the East Boston Greenway Council and the Friends, Welch, together with her neighbors, worked for decades on mitigation for parkland lost to Logan Airport, leading to the creation and extension of the Greenway through the cooperative efforts of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN).
Despite her self-effacing manner and insistence that she was just one part of a grassroots movement, support for the naming of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway was overwhelming with the proposal ratified by the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission on October 7.