Rail Trail Newsletter 1-2021 #52

Welcome to the New Year. So much going on around the world, with the pandemic, the transition and a myriad of other things but luckily I only focus on the developing network of trails. Quite a few things this month. One is a letter I wrote to the Mass DEP's Waterways office about the to-do in Sudbury regarding the proposed electric corridor improvements by Eversource and in this specific case, issues around the antique RR bridges.

Zooming up in altitude a bit, this issue intrigued me because of a letter the Mass Historic Commission wrote about this case too. I am always interested whenever someone talks about these corridors in the context of their history. That is how I first got involved in all this stuff in the first place. Back in February of 1994. A loooong time ago.

Anyway, one of the other things now up on the green spreadsheet of links to info about the MCRT is a link to the recently released feasibility study by Mass DOT about how to reassemble the corridor. Filling the Gaps as it were. It will live in the spreadsheet below forever, but here is a quick link.

We will be developing a new section of this E newsletter called: FILLING THE GAPS where each month, we'll have a story or two about a section of the corridor being protected or getting built out, or funded to be built out or improved in some way. We'll have stories of a disaster prevented or a disaster or two not prevented. Stay tuned for that.

There are a lot of stories this month about the 750 mile Empire State Trail in NY being finished. There is even an interesting story about Metro-North building a rail-w-trail on a segment in the Hudson River Valley. I get calls each month people in VT, NH and CT who are floundering around on this issue. I've told you all that you need to get your states' Rec-Use Statutes brought into the 21st century. Get going on it.

And a story about a leader of the opposition of a trail in Maine and how he became a proponent of the trail--just beyond his backyard.

Stay well.

Craig Della Penna, Exec. Director
Norwottuck Network
62 Chestnut St. Northampton, MA 01062
413 575 2277 CraigDP413@gmail.com

In the GREEN area, news about

the Mass Central Rail Trail
and its connecting paths
Bikeway Building Booms Beyond Belmont

By John Diekmann | Belmont Citizens Forum

January, biking might not be on too many people’s minds, but with spring only a couple of months away, this seems like a good time to take stock of the regional rail trail network.

The Belmont Community Path is a short but essential link in the long distance Mass Central Rail Trail (MCRT), which connects to several other rail trails in its 104 miles from Northpoint Park in Cambridge, near the Science Museum, westward all the way to Northampton. This update covers the roughly 30 miles of the MCRT and connecting trails inside I-495. Read more
My letter to the Mass DEP's Waterways Regulation Program about bridges on the MCRT segment in SudburyRead more

And here's a link to the town of Sudbury's Historical Commission where a LOT of info is kept about this case.

And here's a link to the letter from the Mass Historic Commission about this case.
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 to 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.
Belmont: Link here to the Friends of the Community Path Facebook group.
Somerville: Link here to the Friends of the Community Path Facebook group. 
Waltham: Link here to the Waltham Land Trust's site.
Walham: Link here to the Waltham Bike Committee.
Waltham: Link here to the City's page about the MCRT.
Weston: Link here to the town's page about the MCRT
Weston: Link here to the history of both the RR and the advocacy to create the trail. Over 25 years of advocacy. It is now open.
Wayland: Link here
Sudbury: Link here for the N-S intersecting trail--Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. 
Hudson: Link here for the NE-SW intersecting trail--Assabet River Rail Trail.
Berlin-Hudson: Link here to the new FaceBook group.
Berlin: Link here goes to the town's Rail Trail Committee. They also have a pretty nice website with pictures of the existing dead RR corridor along other maps and images of a future trail. Link here.
Wayside segment of the MCRT: Link here to a history of DCR's efforts on this.
Clinton Greenway Conservation Trust: Link here.
Clinton Tunnel: Link here to a story on WBZ Boston TV about the tunnel.
Wachusett Greenways area: Link here.
East Quabbin Land Trust: Link here
Palmer coming soon 
Ware: Link here to the Facebook group about this segment of the MCRT'. 
Belchertown: Link for the site for Friends of the Belchertown Greenway.
Amherst, Hadley on DCR's Norwottuck section of the MCRT: Link here.
Northampton area: Link here to the Friends of Northampton Trails website.
Northampton area: Link here to the Friends of Northampton Trails Facebook.
Here's DOT's Recent Feasibility study about how to piece together the middle sections of the MCRT.
A trail transformation in Maine

Once opposed to the construction of a multi-use trail adjacent to his home, Ellsworth, Maine, resident Marc Blanchette is living proof of the health benefits produced by easy access to trails and greenways. Read more (I love stories like this because in the over the 25+ years I've been doing this, I've gotten to know many of the folks opposed to the trail coming to their neighborhood. And believe me, not many make the transition like this fellow has. Kudos to him. CDP)
Three New Trails in Mass To Look Forward To in 2021
Construction activities have slowed down considerably for the winter season, but three major new trail projects in Boston’s suburbs are poised to open for traffic in early 2021: the Cochituate Rail Trail in Natick, the Cambridge-Watertown Greenway, and the extension of the Northern Strand Trail in Revere, Saugus, and Lynn. Read more
Transformational Bike Path to Montclair, NJ Advances

At the December 14th City Council caucus, Debra Kagan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, presented a slide show detailing plans for a bike and pedestrian walkway that would run from Jersey City to Montclair.

We’ve transcribed her comments below the slides that went with the presentation. The City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution supporting the project at its next meeting. Read more
A New York State of Trail
By Brian PJ Cronin, Reporter
After years of effort, 750-mile Empire State Trail is complete

The next time you go to the southern end of the Dutchess Rail Trail in Hopewell Junction for a run or bike ride, try something different: Go right.

The trail once extended a few more hundred feet before hitting a fence. Now you’ll find an opening in the fence, and the trail continuing. Eighty-nine miles later, you will reach the southern tip of Manhattan. Read more
58 Projects Completed by State and Local Partners to Build Nation's Longest Multi-Use State Trail
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced completion of the Empire State Trail, now the nation's longest multi-use state trail, which will be fully open on December 31. The trail spans 750-miles total, 75 percent of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The Empire State Trail is expected to draw 8.6 million residents and tourists annually. Read more
7 Raised Crossings Greenlighted in New Haven and Hampden, CT
Strollers, joggers, rollerbladers and cyclists may soon have seven fewer reasons to worry about cars slamming into them on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Read more
Boston Channel 5 Chronicle show host Ted Reinstein's favorites: Rail trails a great escape in 2020
In 2020, people were looking for any outdoor activity they could find. Ted headed out on the trail -- rail trails in particular, which have opened up scenic vistas once only accessible to railroad passengers.

Ted Reinstein's New Year's Resolution is to continue doing some of the things he appreciated in 2020: bike rides on the rail trails; safe, close travel; and walks downtown where he made surprising discoveries. Tonight he shares his favorite stories from the past year, including his tour of some of the Commonwealth's 70 rail trails - walking and cycling trails converted from old railroad beds. For his July 2020 trail show Ted highlighted trails all over the Commonwealth, including: Read more
Years ago, opponents used German shepherds, cars and fear-mongering in attempt to block construction of popular East Bay Rail Trail
The 14.5-mile stretch of asphalt was hardly a shoo-in. In fact, it was met with raucous opposition and even a letter to a high-level staffer of President Reagan begging for federal intervention. Read more (I love stories of opposition to rail trails. CDP)
Tunnel at Rotterdam Jct! Finally.

— For decades, two sets of railroad tracks in Rotterdam Junction impeded people looking to take a long off-road bike ride between Schenectady and Amsterdam on the Erie Canalway Trail.

But the obstacles for riders are no more. As part of developing the statewide Empire State Trail, the state has built a bike-pedestrian tunnel under the PanAm Rail tracks at the end of Scrafford Lane, rehabbed a century-old maintenance tunnel under the CSX tracks two miles west, and built three miles of new trail. Total cost: $8 million.. Read more.
New Life for Old Bridges
Scenic Hudson is working to save a dozen steel truss bridges that link residents and visitors with times gone-by By Reed Sparling
In the early 20th century, access to the Hudson River in upper Dutchess and southern Columbia counties was confined largely to those wealthy families whose sprawling estates lined its banks. To reach the shore, and in some cases their mansions, many had to cross over the railroad tracks on steel truss bridges. Read more
Here's two resources for antique maps.
Here's a link to the UNH site that has all the antique topographic maps in the six New England states and NY.
And here's a link (below) to most of the New Haven RR Val map collection. You are going to love these.
Historical signs add to appeal of the Springfield Mass Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway
By Peter Goonan pgoonan@repub.com
SPRINGFIELD — New interpretive signs and lamppost banners along the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, as well as a weed eradication program, should attract new users to the recreational trail, advocates said.

Betsy Johnson, of the group WalkBike Springfield, said she is excited Springfield is joining other area communities in placing signs along their bike trails to provide historical information about surrounding landmarks.

“It has been very well received,” Johnson said. “One of the things that is a concern of ours is that so many people don’t even know about the river walk.”

WalkBike Springfield joined with the city’s parks department in pursuing the sign funds. The Preservation Committee and City Council approved $24,000 in 2018.

The light pole banners at the entrances to the 3.7-mile path, and the signs scattered along the trail, provide information about the trail, the role of the Connecticut River and other riverbank assets, Johnson said.

There is information about the North End and Memorial bridges that abut the trail, the river flow and levee system, the 1936 flood, the former Hampden Park, shad migration, boating and other topics. Read more
As local groups in SW NH improve rail trails, public input is sought
By Olivia Belanger Keene Sentinel

As part of an ongoing project, the Southwest Region Planning Commission is asking for public input to help improve one of the region’s recreational trails.

The 43-mile Cheshire Rail Trail connects Walpole in the northwest to Fitzwilliam in the southeast, and includes stretches in Keene and Swanzey. And though it’s passable, the trail has miles of unimproved sections that make it difficult to use.

Mike Kowalczyk, chairman of the Swanzey Rail Trail Advisory Committee, said that by the project’s end, the goal is for the trail to be used by people of all ages and abilities. Read more
Active Transportation is an Easy Win
An op-ed in CT News Junkie by John Hall. (Note the nice picture of yet another, new bike=ped bridge. This pix in Manchester, CT is by R. Bruce Donald of the East Coast Greenway.)

Active transportation means getting from place to place by human power – walking, bicycling, wheelchair, and even skateboard. For some, active transportation is a necessity because they cannot afford a car, or because they do not drive due to age or disability. Read more.
Interesting and Pertinent Stories From Around the Country and Sometimes Beyond.
The US wasn't equipped for 2020's cycling boom. Its failures stem from a century of leaving bikes behind.
By Tim Levin 12-26
Business Insider
Walk the streets of many major US cities today and you'll find cones, bollards, and barricades creating space for pedestrians and cyclists that, before the pandemic, belonged to cars. It's an urbanist's dream, but it's come at an immense cost.

When COVID-19 hit last spring, cities from Oakland to Philadelphia scrambled to meet the needs of a public abruptly uprooted from its daily routine and forced to physically distance. Taking advantage of a steep drop-off in car traffic, transportation departments began closing streets to give people more space to roam while designating temporary bike lanes to accommodate a pandemic-era surge in cycling. Read more.
How Madison keeps its bike paths clear through the winter
By Colton Molesky
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 9:31 AM EST
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Winter means tougher conditions for outdoor activities like biking and running, but efforts from the city of Madison’s engineering division make it a bit easier by keeping paths around the city clean all winter long.

The process of keeping the paths clear takes a lot of behind the scenes work and some heavy-duty machinery. Crews from the engineering division work to predict and plan before a storm hits, gauging the workload. When conditions do turn, crews hit paths, clearing 90% of them with toolcats, big four-wheelers sporting massive brushes. Read more.
Can Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway avoid
Author: Jena Brooker Planet Detroit
Paul Draus was doing a research project comparing Detroit and Berlin when he hit upon the concept of utilizing green spaces to benefit communities that have been impacted by system racism. He began calling the idea ”green reparations.”

“I got interested in how former industrial spaces could be turned into publicly accessible green spaces,” Draus, a professor of criminology and sociology and director of criminal justice graduate studies at The University of Michigan-Dearborn, told Planet Detroit. “And how this might be not only a kind of health intervention, but also address issues of historical trauma and injustice.” Read more.

The new Norwottuck Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation specifically set up to help get the longest rail trail in New England--the Mass Central Rail Trail --built-out, operational and notable.
We can help do that by making small, mini-grants available to local groups and communities that will bring restore/renovate/replace historic mile-markers on the corridor. Or help fund kiosks that will call out forgotten railroad or industrial history of that locale.
We will want to work with the state park agency Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) on standardized kiosk designs.
We will keep you all posted as to developments as we go. We have made it easy to DONATE through the Network for Good.
Amazingly, Constant Contact alerted Tiffany Lyman-Olszewski, the editor here, that this newsletter is in the top 10% of all of Constant Contact's newsletters, worldwide, in terms of readership engagement.
Imagine that!