Soon you may be able to stroll for 5 miles along Neponset River

Jennifer Mann

Not far from the MBTA Red Line bridge is an underutilized spot that offers panoramic views of the Neponset River, its side channels and a wide expanse of salt marsh - all backed by the picturesque Boston skyline.

But to get there, one must trek from busy Commander Shea Boulevard down a muddy, meager path that barely forges through long grasses and weeds.

A group of environmentalists, working with city planners, is trying to change that.

A five-member task force appointed by outgoing Mayor William Phelan is ready to hand a report to incoming Mayor Tom Koch, which outlines in detail what it would take to transform this spot and the rest of a 5-mile stretch along the Neponset River into a recreational respite for walkers, joggers, bird watchers and cyclists.

The Neponset Riverwalk would be a continuous pedestrian link along the waterfront, running from the Adams Inn and the Neponset Bridge into a loop around Squantum Point Park and Marina Bay and touching Wollaston Beach.

The report, which moves the project a step closer to reality, takes two previous studies and breaks them down into a step-by-step discussion of specifics, including park benches made of recycled materials and rain gardens for filtering storm water.

‘‘I think we’re well along the way on this,’’ said task force member Steve Pearlman, advocacy director for the Neponset River Watershed Association. ‘‘Mayor Phelan certainly supported it, and I think the new mayor will as well, because it will be a major amenity for the city.’’

The riverwalk would pass through developed land, open space and a patchwork of public and private property, connecting existing walkways, roads and parks wherever possible.

The the task force was told to decide what was feasible, then tackle the more herculean challenge of getting a handful of property owners to agree.

‘‘We worked really hard at overcoming the odds of this happening,’’ said Mary Smith, a landscape architect in Quincy’s planning department. ‘‘In the process, I think we all fell for the whole place, and we want everyone else to enjoy it, too.’’

The task force, which also included City Solicitor Monica Conyngham and members of the Quincy Environmental Network, started meeting once a month last year, then every other week in the fall in order to have the report ready for when the new administration takes over.

During these meetings, they’d lay out a map and go over one section of the trail at a time, visualizing a bench here, a boat launch there, using as a template a Massachusetts Audubon Society study done in the spring.

Smith said the piecemeal approach will make it easier to ultimately implement the design, possibly also in stages.

‘‘You don’t have to take the whole thing on at once - it’s a big project,’’ she said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boston Scientific and Neponset Landing developer Conroy Development Corp. have all agreed to design elements on their properties.

Now, task force members say, they need political buy-in to help them through the permit-obtaining process, which will include getting local and state environmental approval for many of the parcels.

Questions of funding also loom. Task force member Steve Perdios, president of the Quincy Environmental Network, said the cost of the project is not clear yet, nor is whether it would be paid for by private or public dollars, or a combination of both.

He said the task force also wants more public input, with plans to present the report during a public meeting in February or March.

Perdios expects positive feedback.

‘‘Who doesn’t want a recreational trail?’’ he said. ‘‘This is something that should be a major amenity to the neighborhoods.’’

Jennifer Mann may be reached at

The Patriot Ledger