In 1898, a year before the Speedway opened to the public, Harper's Weekly published a glowing article about the proposed racetrack's unobtrusive inclusion within the Charles River Reservation. The magazine commended the Metropolitan Parks Commission (MPC) - DCR's predecessor organization - on the "wise action" of integrating the racing facilities into landscape improvements. Whereas New York constructed a racetrack along the Harlem River without regard for landscaping, damaging the shoreline "beyond remedy," Boston drew up plans for the Speedway that took the surrounding scenery into account. According to Harper's Weekly, renowned landscape architects Frederick Law and John Charles Olmsted proposed two racecourses for horses and bicycles respectively, bordered on one side by a drive (present-day Soldiers Field Road, at the time shared by horses returning from the finish line) and on the other by the Charles River. The speedways were to be separated from the road and from each other by rows of trees, and from the river by parkland and a promenade. Underpasses beneath the racecourses would provide access between a North Brighton playground and a riverside ball field, as well as to the turf within the bicycle track. A dike would protect the low-lying area from tidal flooding, while a dam would keep saltwater out of the Charles, transforming a historic salt marsh into a sparkling freshwater river. Brighton could have its racecourse without sacrificing its waterfront.
Construction of the Speedway deviated slightly from these plans, though the essential aspects remained in place. Only one track for both horses and bicycles was built, with horses returning from the finish line along the adjacent drive in accordance with the initial proposal. Moreover, maps from 1899 and 1909 do not indicate that pedestrian underpasses were ever built beneath the Speedway, though one may have been constructed below the drive. In 1900 the MPC added an exit near the center of the track to allow for its use as a half-mile course, but decided ten years later that an additional oval track was necessary. However, reclaimed parkland remained essential to the development. The MPC initially struggled against the site's natural topography. After the Speedway opened in August 1899, the entire embankment settled between three and seven feet, with the drive just two to six feet above the original level of the marsh. This was despite "128,600 cubic yards of excavation, 400,500 cubic yards of gravel and peat used for filling, 584,000 feet B. M. [board measure] of timber, 14 miles of drains, 17,900 lineal feet of fencing, 17,200 tons of broken stone and 20,500 cubic yards of loam" that went into construction even before shoring (1900 MPC Board Report). Preventing the Speedway from reverting to wetland demanded several years of patient effort.
When completed, the Charles River Reservation and Speedway were an instant success. The serene river scenery and Olmsted plantings, combined with promenades, outdoor gymnasia, and boat houses, drew thousands to what had formerly been a polluted swamp. The park's recreational centerpiece was the Speedway. Set back from the river, it curved gracefully for a mile without overshadowing the area's natural beauty. Today, the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path traces the same route through Herter Park. Brighton's urban oasis continues to delight cyclists who now follow the Speedway's ghost past playgrounds and gardens, glimpsing the river between the trees.