Rail Trail Newsletter 2017 #6


Some pretty notable projects are featured in this issue.  Swampscott, for example, has a few stories.  Swampscott, if you don’t know, is a community north of Boston along the seacoast and a place where the dead, derelict, former RR corridor--that passes by a few schools in town--has been the subject of a debate for about 15+ years. Should it be converted to a finished, family-friendly path for walking/jogging/biking?

Of course, most of the adjacent property owners are terrified/angry and ferociously opposed. And just this week, it looks like the pro-trail people are FINALLY gaining traction. AND the attorney for the anti-path folks in Williamsburg from 15 years ago has weighed-in with a murky letter to the town of Swampscott.  I couldn't even begin to write this script. 

Other interesting updates are in CT and NY AND a letter from an opponent to the project in Danvers who came to love the trail near his house. (I love stories like that.)

And three updates are about things happening on the Mass Central Rail Trail. And finally, due to popular demand, I’ve put together an archive of all the old newsletters. 

In the next newsletter, I'll have an essay about the memorial services for David Burwell in Woods Hole on Cape Cod a couple of weeks ago. One of my life's most indelible moments.  I hope you enjoy this. 


Craig Della Penna
413 575 2277
"In the News"
 and Updates About the Longest Rail Trail Project in New England
  Things are moving ahead on Waltham's section of the MCRT

Late in March, the city of Waltham released the request for proposals (RFP) for the detailed design of the Waltham segment of the Wayside section of the Mass Central Rail Trail. The bidders’ meeting, which was held at Waltham City Hall on April 13. It was well attended by about a dozen engineering and design firms, along with two Waltham city councilors, the executive director of the Waltham Land Trust and two board members, and the chairman of the Waltham Cons Comm.  READ MORE 

MCRT Route Alternatives through Belmont
  In the last issue it was mentioned that Belmont was going through a community process to identify a route through town.   READ MORE about this effort.  And you thought building a pathway was easy to do this...

Update on the MCRT's Northampton tunnel
 Construction of the bike/pedestrian underpass in Northampton is moving forward, after a pause during the winter months.

During the past few weeks, MassDOT’s contractors have constructed a new section of rail line above the completed portion of the underpass. The new section of track was then cut in to the main line and the temporary shoofly track, that had been in place since late 2016, was removed.  READ MORE on the great blog, Trains in the Valley.

Communities on the 
 on the MCRT and their websites

Did you know that many communities (or groups like land trusts) on the MCRT alignment are working on their section of the trail? 

Here are links to websites where you can learn who the contact person is, when these groups meet, when hearings are being planned and how sign up to get notices sent to you directly.
Belmont:  Link here to the town appointed committee. 
Belmont:   Link here  to the Belmont Citizens Forum. This is a periodical that has the best info about the MCRT in Belmont. 
Somerville: Link here to the Friends of the Community Path.  Their Face Book page is here
Waltham: Link here.
Weston: Link here.
Wayland:Link here
Sudbury: Link here for the N-S corridor. 
Hudson: Link here.    
Berlin: Link here goes to the town's Rail Trail Committee.  Once on that page, you can sign up to get notices of meetings, agendas, minutes, etc.  They also have a pretty nice website w pix of the future trail.  Link here.
Clinton: Link here.
Wachusett Greenways area: Link here.
East Quabbin Land Trust service area: Link here.   
Ware:  Check out the town's new Open Space Plan. Link here
Belchertown/Northampton area: Link here.

Rail trail will be ‘an asset’ for Concord
By  Henry  Schwan    Greg Kwon has a prediction for Concord residents for when a section of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail running through West Concord is finished.

“They’re going to love it,” Kwon said of the $6.7 million Phase 2C section of the trail.  READ MORE.
Lake Placid Officials Hold Informational Meeting On Draft Adirondack Rail Trail Conceptual Plan 

By Pat Bradley. About two dozen people filled the meeting room in the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid Thursday evening to hear about and ask questions about the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan for an Adirondack rail-trail plan.

In late April the Department of Environmental Conservation issued its draft Adirondack Rail Trail Conceptual Plan for the design of the 34-mile section between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.  It is intended to connect the villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake with new recreational opportunities as old rail lines are replaced with stone-dust trails for activities such as hiking, biking, walking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. READ MORE.
Rail Trails in NY on PBS
[You're going to love this -CDP]  The new documentary  Treasures of New York: Rails-to-Trails – premiering on Thursday, May 18 at 8pm on WLIW21 and Sunday, May 21 at 7pm on THIRTEEN – examines the movement that turned discarded and abandoned infrastructure into public parks and trails. This movement has momentum: Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a bold plan for a network of 750-miles of trails, spanning from NYC’s harbor to Canada, and from the state capital of Albany to Buffalo in the west. READ MORE 
Here's a few recent stories about
Swampscott's trials and tribulations 
LETTER: Time for Swampscott rail trail has come, writes Select Board

On May 15, Town Meeting will vote on an article to fund the engineering and design of a public recreational trail including the acquisition of easement rights for the trail. We believe that development of this trail is a wise investment and a wonderful addition for Swampscott, providing long-term benefits to the town. The development of a rail trail will increase the useable open space for people of all generations in every neighborhood. Trails such as this one have been shown to increase property values in neighboring areas, and are attractive features for new families. In addition, the town is in a very strong position to invest in the trail this year.   READ MORE.
Rail trail reality: 'It's perception'  [ Here's a story about a Danvers opponent who came to love the trail.  I LOVE stories like this.  -CDP]
DANVERS — The immaculate, 4.3-mile stone dust rail trail that runs along the former Essex Railroad line here has made a believer out of one of its most ardent opponents. 

“I was definitely opposed to it,” said Franklin Street resident John Toomey about the trail that abuts his backyard.   READ MORE  Click on the map image to the left to see a nice map of the Danvers Trail.

SWAMPSCOTT — National Grid representatives have informed town officials that they will not voluntarily enter into a license with the town for a proposed rail trail within the company’s corridor.

Town Meeting members will be asked to approve a warrant article on May 15 requesting $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of the easement rights.

The two-plus mile, 10-foot wide trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead rail trail, which also links to trails in Salem, officials said. READ MORE.  

[I was disappointed to see National Grid's 'squishy/squeamish' take on this.  Especially given their leadership in getting the Recreational Use Statutes changed in Massachusetts several years ago. Changes that allowed just this sort of thing. And, truth be told, they were so proud of their work that they sent their VP of Real Estate to the signing ceremony with then Governor Patrick. To see the improved Rec Use Statutes in Mass, CLICK HERE. CDP]

SWAMPSCOTT RAIL TRAIL ON TRACK  [I've been waiting over 15 years for this story. CDP]

May 15, 2017 By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town Meeting members approved allocating funds to allow officials to move forward with plans for a proposed rail trail on Monday night.

After much debate, Town Meeting members voted 210-56 to approve a warrant article, requesting $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of the easement rights.  READ MORE  

And then there was this from Attorney Michael Pill
Attorney Pill is with a law firm in Northampton and he was the attorney for the litigants in a lawsuit in Williamsburg brought against Mass Electric [later National Grid] where the abutters claimed ownership of the corridor.   READ the letter he sent the morning after the town meeting vote.  And you thought building a nice trail was easy.  
Dover citizens approve lease for rail trail at Dover Town Meeting. 
By Alex MacDougall/Dover-Sherborn Press

More than 700 citizens of Dover gathered in the Mudge Auditorium at the Dover-Sherborn Regional High School for its annual Town Meeting, in which the citizens voted on a number of important articles pertaining to the town.One of the most pressing issues in the meeting was presented in Articles 19 and 20, which concerned the negotiated lease from the MBTA to construct a rail trail in the town of Dover. The town had approved the Board of Selectman to negotiate with the MBTA in last year’s Town Meeting, though strong opposition efforts still existed to prevent its creation. Residents approved the lease Monday night. READ MORE.
Connecticut NEWS:  Movement to complete
state’s trails gaining momentum

For more than two decades, most of the new trails built in the state were almost entirely the work of local volunteers who had to overcome indifference, if not obstruction, on the part of the State Department of Transportation. In the past five years, Gov. Malloy and his transportation commissioner, James Redeker, have turned that narrative on its head. The state is now including non-motorized trails in its planning efforts and making major investments in them. As a result, more are getting built. READ MORE
Please come to  the  Public Information Meeting on May 22, 2017 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Plainville, CT Public Library Auditorium
We will review the potential trail alignments in Plainville and New Britain that will be evaluated later this spring. These alignments will help to complete the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail through Plainville and connect to the CT fastrak station in New Britain. We want your feedback on the alignments as well as the criteria that will be used to evaluate them. Your feedback on the alignment and the evaluation criteria will help the study team select the preferred alignments for the FHCT and CT fastrak connection. READ MORE 
An archive of these newsletters is now set up
   Several people have asked to have these newsletters available through an archive of sorts  
This is now done and it lives on one of my websites.   LINK HERE 
       In 2016, I commissioned Tom Adams of Reelife Productions  to produce a series of short videos about each section of the burgeoning network of rail trails here in the CT River Valley. Turns out that there are 14 and you're gonna love them! 
     The one I'm featuring today  is number #4 and is about the section of the trail in Florence and Leeds neighborhoods of Northampton. This one is about houses near to the trail and some other features.   SEE THE VIDEO

Here's my calendar of upcoming in-person lectures, online webinars, bike tours, book-signings etc.   Email me at: [email protected] for more information on any of these events or if your community might like to host one.