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February 2015 - Vol 3, Issue 1
In This Issue
How did this happen?
What will happen next?
Who is Squannacook Greenways?
What's a stone dust trail like?
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The Squannacook Greenways Board of Directors considers signing the MBTA lease to be the single most important step in the last 11 years .

The lease for the Squannacook River Rail Trail is signed!


On Jan. 26, 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) signed the ninety-nine year lease with Squannacook Greenways, giving us the needed right to build and maintain this new rail trail in Townsend and Groton. 



This is an exciting milestone!  Signing the MBTA lease for the Greenville branch has been the focus of Squannacook Greenways since our founding in 2011.  The MBTA owns this rail bed.  Signing this lease with them gives us the legal right to move ahead with this exciting project.


We know that a lot of work still lies ahead. Membership drives, fund raising, trail design, permitting and construction will all present their own unique challenges.  However, the Squannacook Greenways board consider signing the MBTA lease the single most important step in the last eleven years.  It opens the door for trail supporters to help construct a rail trail that our towns can enjoy and take pride in. 

How did Squannacook Greenways win the right to sign the MBTA lease?
The agreement between the MBTA and Squannacook Greenways represents an innovative approach, as this is the first time MBTA has entered into a lease with a non-profit organization.
Prior to January of last year, Squannacook Greenways was working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to sign the lease, and then have DCR sublease the rail bed to us. In late 2013, this plan ran into legal problems outside of DCR's control. At that point, the MBTA stepped forward with a proposal to put the right to sign the MBTA lease out for public auction.

Previously, only governmental organizations such as towns or DCR had signed rail trail leases with the MBTA. Putting the rail trail lease out for public bid was a new approach for the MBTA. We at Squannacook Greenways would like to thank the MBTA for taking an untried approach to allow this rail trail to move forward.

We would also like to thank some of our strongest, long-term advocates whose support encouraged the MBTA to take this step. First, we would like to acknowledge the ceaseless help we received from our state senators and state representative, Senator Flanagan, Senator Donoghue, and Representative Harrington. We would also like to thank the board of selectmen from Townsend and Groton for their letters of support.

Without the help of our two mentor non-profits, the Nashua River Watershed Association and Wachusett Greenways, we would never have been in a position to make this trail possible. The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts was also key, in that their $18,000 grant last year helped to convince the MBTA of our fiscal soundness. And finally we would like to thank DCR for all their help over the years, with special thanks to Tom LaRosa, DCR's general counsel, who always went way beyond the call of duty in trying to help us move forward with this rail trail.

What happens next?

Now that the lease is signed, things will really swing into motion. Squannacook Greenways will kick off a membership drive and a capital campaign. The $18,000 grant we received last year from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts gave us a great start toward the $150,000 needed to build this rail trail.

Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts logo
With the $18,000 grant we received from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, our fundraising is off to a great start!


We will also start running and walking tours of the future trail. We will begin volunteer work days to clear parts of the trail that are do not need to go through the wetlands permitting process.  We will also continue to submit grant applications for additional funding for trail construction. We are also planning to reach out to all abutters of the future rail trail. Finally we will start the permitting process in both Groton and Townsend.


In order to keep everyone in touch with all that will be going on, we'll send out our electronic newsletters and post the latest on Facebook and our website. Remember, this trail will not be built by a town committee or a state agency. It will be built by us - the people of Townsend and Groton.

Who is Squannacook Greenways?

Squannacook Greenways, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that plans to build and maintain the Squannacook River Rail Trail. The trail will be built and maintained by our non-profit, and not by any town or state governmental body.


Current members of our Board of Directors are:

  • Townsend - Mark Cram, Ray Jackson, Don Klein, Steve Meehan, Bill Rideout, and Joan Wotkowicz
  • Groton - Peter Carson, Peter Cunningham, and Bruce Easom
  • Ashby - Cedwyn Morgan

We are also thankful for support from the Nashua River Watershed Association and especially from Al Futterman, Land Programs and Outreach Director. 


The planned Squannacook River Rail Trail will be a 3.7 mile stone dust rail trail on the existing MBTA rail bed, with a western end in Townsend center. It will travel east just south of Route 119, passing behind the Harbor Village Shopping Center, where it will parallel Townsend Road in Groton until it reaches the Bertozzi Wildlife area.

What is a stone dust rail trail like?

The Squannacook River Rail Trail will be a stone dust trail. A great example of a local stone dust rail trail is the section of the Mass Central Rail Trail built by Wachusett Greenways. This trail runs through the towns of Sterling, West Boylston, Holden, and Rutland. 
The trail has a more rustic, country feel than the asphalt paved Nashua River Rail Trail, yet still can be ridden on by almost all bicycles, although typically not inline skates. Riding speeds tend to be slower than on a paved rail trail. 
We have worked closely with the board of Wachusett Greenways refining our plans.  We encourage everyone to visit their trail.  When you do, we think you will be as impressed as we were at what a non-profit can accomplish! See www.wachusettgreenways.org for a map and more details.