Commission to Convert Part of Mem Drive to 'People's Park'

The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) will ban all vehicular traffic from a 1.6-mile stretch of Memorial Drive on four consecutive Sundays starting April 18, converting the roadway and adjacent bank of the Charles River into an experimental "people's park."

The commission's decision to close off the length of road, which extends from Eliot Bridge to Western Avenue, came in response to a request from the "People for Riverbend Park."

Old Man

The 40-member Riverbend group seeks to "make people aware of Cambridge's greatest asset, right at our doorsteps--the Charles River," Isabella Halsted, its executive secretary, said yesterday.

The MDC and the Cambridge Traffic Commission will work jointly to reroute traffic on each of the days when the road is turned into a pedestrian mall.

George Tezo, Cambridge traffic commissioner, said yesterday that he is concerned that the road closing will cause traffic congestion on residential Cambridge streets.

Bad Idea

"If we're going to be making a park at the expense of the city, then the whole proposal is a bad idea," he said.

Tezo said he hopes to divert most of the Memorial Drive traffic to Soldiers Field Drive on the Allston side of the Charles River by utilizing detour signs.

"It's possible that there'll be no way to stop the cars from entering Cambridge residential streets without putting barricades up," he said. "It might come to that."

Nearly one-third of the stretch of Memorial Drive that will be closed borders on Harvard facilities.

Louis J. Armistead, assistant to the vice-president for Community Affairs, said yesterday that the MDC did not consult with the University before making the decision to run the trial program.

Harvard Will Survive

Armisted said that he does not expect the road closing to have any adverse effects on the University and that the pedestrian mall proposal is "at least a great thing to try out."

The MDC-approved the four-week trial program in part on the basis of the apparent success last spring of a "community picnic." During the picnic, which was approved by the MDC and organized by the Riverbend Committee, the same portion of Memorial Drive was closed.

A junior who attended the event last May recalled it as having been "a really calm, really laid-back day, with lots of people just lying out on the grass, milling around on the drive, playing football and selling food and things."