SAUGUS — The Seaport Economic Council has awarded the town $1 million for the Ballard Street RiverWalk project, a local development project that spans the Saugus River.
The money will be put toward the final design and construction of the first phase of the project.
Despite years of effort, the town’s lobster fleet has been reduced to 20 licensed commercial fishermen. The town now believes it is essential to introduce new facilities and businesses to help bolster the fleet, said Town Manager Scott Crabtree said in a statement. With the grant money from the Seaport Economic Council for the design and permitting for a new RiverWalk, Crabtree believes the reinvigoration of Lobsterman’s Landing is possible.
The proposed RiverWalk will connect the town-owned boat ramp, Lobsterman’s Landing, and the bike and pedestrian lanes planned as part of the Belden Bly Bridge project. It will also improve public access to the Saugus River, promote foot traffic for the Department of Recreation and Conservation restoration project at the Rumney Marsh, and encourage commercial fishermen and recreational boat users to visit the area.
The idea for a community RiverWalk was developed during a series of resident meetings in 2013. A Waterfront Mixed Use Overlay District was adopted by Town Meeting in 2014. The Seaport Economic Council grant will match 20 percent of the $3.1 million price tag.
Saugus was one of six communities and four educational institutions awarded funding at a Seaport Economic Council meeting last week for their initiatives to improve coastal public infrastructure and promote maritime economic development.
The town had previously been awarded $120,000 in November 2015 for the plan and design of the RiverWalk and an additional $120,000 in August 2017 for the design and permitting of phase one of the project.
Through the program, the town has a potential to receive up to $3.5 million in grants from the design through construction phases.
“This partnership between the state and our local government brings us one step closer to the project’s completion, which will support the town’s lobstermen and fishermen, improve public access to the riverfront, and encourage economic development,” said Crabtree.