Barren wasteland transformed into Shangrila
ADD SWIMMING TO THE LIST of ways you can get to the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett.
After a massive $70 million cleanup effort by Wynn Resorts, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the Mystic River in the area of the casino is now rated clean enough to swim in. “That’s never happened in the life of this property,” he said.
Actually, the quality of the water in the Mystic River has been pretty good for years. The water quality received an EPA grade of A-minus in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The rating for 2018 is due out next week, and isn’t expected to change.
What has changed is that the river bottom has been dredged – removing tons of debris and contaminated soil – and then capped with new sediment. The contaminated soil up on land, left behind when a Monsanto chemical plant was shuttered, has also been carted away and replaced. The combination of the two soil-removal-and-replacement efforts means swimmers won’t kick up contaminated soil on the river bottom or be affected by contaminated runoff from the land.
Patrick Herron, executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association, which gathers water samples for the EPA, said before the cleanup he would have worried about swimming in the Mystic out in front of where the casino is located. Now, he said, those worries have disappeared.
“I feel confident in saying that’s a safe place to swim,” he said.
The environmental transformation of the site is perhaps one of the biggest benefits from the casino. What once was a barren wasteland fenced off from the public is now a Shangrila, a fanciful complex very different from anything else in the Boston area. The massive facility is surrounded by a brick walkway along the water that is accented by a riot of flowers, shrubs, art work, and, yes, artificial grass.
The public will gets it first look at Encore Boston Harbor Sunday at 10 a.m., when the complex opens with an unusual morning fireworks display. State highway officials said they are prepping for 100,000 people, but Robert DeSalvio, the president of Encore Boston Harbor, said he expects slightly more than half that number.
Officials gathered near the dock area on Wednesday to urge visitors to find ways to come to the casino without driving a car. The non-driving options include the T, shuttle buses, water shuttles, bikes, or just plain walking. (Swimming is not allowed, for now.) For full details, click here.
A few of the traffic measures are interesting. To reduce congestion, Encore has created an area across from the resort where Uber and Lyft drivers can wait for a passenger request rather than circling outside the property. Some drivers have been complaining about difficult access on Facebook, but the concept seems promising.
DeSalvio said the resort’s water shuttles are 9 feet 6 inches tall, meaning they can fit under the nearby Alford Street Bridge even at high tide. The cost of the shuttle from Long Wharf North and the World Trade Center is $7.
Everett police warned that parking in the neighborhoods near the casino won’t be allowed, triggering a $50 ticket and a tow.
DeSalvio said the crowds will probably be large on Sunday, but he said the company has thrown everything it can at addressing potential congestion. “All in all, probably one of the most comprehensive transportation plans ever put together,” he said.