August 20, 2006

Nobscot Rail Trail Before Framingham Selectmen

A report about the feasibility of the Framingham portion of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (sometimes called the Nobscot Rail Trail locally) is slated to be presented at Tuesday's Board of Selectman meeting, which begins at 7:30 pm in the Memorial Building.

Plans call for the Freeman trail to run 25 miles, passing through Sudbury, Concord, Acton and Westford, ending in Lowell. There's some thought of trying to connect the Cochituate Rail Trail to the Freeman trail using one of the MWRA aqueducts north of Saxonville.

The Aug. 22 presentation in Framingham is a "required ‘First Step’ in what will be a multi year journey of fact-finding, negotiation, fund raising, and problem solving, which if successful will lead to a landscaped and finished recreational walking and bicycle path north from Pleasant St. to Rte 20 by Friendly’s Ice Cream in Sudbury and beyond," according to an e-mail sent out by trail supporters. "Construction of the Trail from Lowell south to Rte 225 in Westford begins this spring. Acton is in the State budget following Lowell-Westford; Concord has completed a favorable study, and Sudbury has an engineering study underway."

After Tuesday's presentation, selectmen will be asked to support a letter of intent to begin negotiations with CSX for possible purchase of a right of way for the trail. The letter wouldn't commit the town to purchasing such a right of way, but merely express "interest."

Both trail supporters and concerned abutters are likely to attend Tuesday. Issues I expect to arise at the meeting: Cost, liability, potential increases in crime, safety issues when the trail crosses busy roadways, and concern about reduced property values for property owners abutting the proposed trail. Issues that should come up but may not: Who will clear trash off the trail? (As an abutter to MWRA property I can tell you this isn't a trivial point). Is it necessary to blacktop over the trail in order to get a usable trail? (It'd be a bummer to lose a natural trail in the woods to blacktop. If I wanted to take a walk on pavement, I could use the street.)

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering about the paving too - my feeling is that they're thinking mainly about bikers, which means for sure they'll be putting down some kind of substrate, but maybe they will be using hardpack for at least portions of it. That is cheaper to maintain than pavement I believe. Plus the pavement radiates heat and that always bothers me because it changes the local habitat (the parts of the trail I have been on aren't exactly pristine so maybe this is a moot point).

    As for the trash, right now it seems like the parts near me suffer more from illegal dumping issues that I'd expect would wain once the trail is subjected to more frequent use. I would expect they are allocating money for trail maintenance and this would include trash removal. I read some of the 2004 Rail Trail Task Force report ( and they do mention a budget for trash. I don't blame abutters for being concerned but I also laugh at how some of the ones along the Bruce Freeman have dozens of "Private Property" signs everywhere so people don't accidentally wander *over* their fence and into their yard :-).

    Personally I have always been wanting to be able to freely traverse that MWRA aqueduct property, just to explore the flora and fauna there. I promise not to leave any trash of course.