Friday, January 18, 2002
Assabet River rail trail plans flow swiftly
Sustained volunteer efforts have brought the first segment of the Assabet River Rail Trail (ARRT) to completion and Michelle Ciccolo, an assistant administrator in Hudson who is coordinating the five-town project, reports that other parts of the trail are nearing completion.
The trail follows the railbed of the former Boston and Maine Marlborough Branch along a 12 1/2 mile stretch that begins in Marlborough and continues through Hudson, Stow and Maynard, ending at the commuter rail station in Acton. Marlborough has 2.2 miles of the trail; Hudson has 3.2 miles; Stow has 3.4 miles; Maynard has 2.25 miles, and Acton has 1.3 miles. The trail parallels the Assabet River for much of its course and crosses the river five times. It runs past schools, parks and municipal parcels in the five communities. A section of the trail parallels what will become the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.
The trail itself is a 12-foot-wide paved path designed for cyclists, wheelchairs, pedestrians, roller-blades and cross country skiers. Collapsible steel bollards at roadway grade crossings will restrict motorized vehicles from entering and can be removed for emergency or maintenance vehicles.
Idea for trail comes from Hudson
The idea for the trail arose in 1992 in Hudson, and the plans expanded to include the communities of Marlborough, Hudson, Stow, Maynard and Acton. The seemingly tireless volunteers sponsored trail walks and held slide shows and talks to gain support for a "linear park." Abutters were told about the project. The ARRT project has been endorsed by the Organization for the Assabet River, the Sudbury Valley Trustees and by then-Senator Robert Durand, Representative Pat Wolrath and Senator Pam Resor. Along the way it was also necessary to have the support of selectmen in each of the five communities as well as of the chambers of commerce, conservation commissions and recreations department in each community that needed to be involved .
The overall plan for the trail was developed by individuals in the five communities and agreed to by each of them. However, the implementation of the plan was done by each community separately for the segment that passes through it. The scope of this undertaking is boggling. It involved feasibility studies, several kinds of grant applications, RFPs, bids, approvals from Town Meetings at each step of the way. Monies were acquired from a number of sources, including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, the Conservation Foundation and the Franklin Research and Development corporation. Marlborough received a Public Works Economic Development Grant and ARRT received a grant from the Department of Environmental Management's Greenways and Trails Demonstration Grant program. The state Transportation Demand Management brought design funds to Hudson and later additional monies for two park and ride facilities. The list of funding sources is not complete, but indicates the scope of funding activity.
Land acquisition a hurdle
The purchase of rights-of-way or easements to pass over portions of the trail was an expensive item in the development, because the land, though being owned in many cases by the state, was being sold at market value. In March 2001 the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board of Directors changed their policy on transferring abandoned right of ways. The effect of the policy change was to enable the title to some sections formerly estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars to become available for $1. This freed money for other ARRT needs.
ARRT has a web site at http://www.ARRTinc.org/. The group has open monthly meetings held on the third Thursday at 7 p.m. The meetings rotate among the towns and the location of the next meeting may be found at the website.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito