More than a year has passed since the last email went out to rail trail supporters in Medfield, which has left many of you in doubt about the future of the project.
This email is intended to do two things – first, bring you up to date on the events of the past 15 months in all four towns, and second, describe the tasks that Medfield’s Rail Trail Study Committee will try to accomplish next year.
Plan globally – build locally
Starting in 2011, study groups, friend of the trail-groups, and local support groups formed in all towns, and the rail trail turned into a series of local projects. The Bay Colony Rail Trail Association, the 401(c)(3) non-profit corporation that is sending you this email update, coordinates efforts between towns and manages fund-raising campaigns.
Newton has been a role model and will be the first town to have a usable section of rail trail on the Bay Colony Railroad corridor. A lease with the MBTA was signed in September. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on October 25, and construction is currently under way (here is a link to a report of the event with pictures). The Upper Falls Greenway, as it is called, may be open to the public before the end of the year (weather permitting)!
Dover residents voted last spring against allocating $50,000 to fund an engineering study for the trail, concerned about the cost burden to the town. A private donor immediately jumped to the rescue by pledging the full amount that is needed, but before the town can move forward with commissioning a study, a rail trail vision with broad support must be developed. The Dover study committee went back to the drawing board and is preparing a plan with a reduced scope that may not include the section between Haven Street and the Charles River on the Needham side.
Meanwhile in Needham, two articles related to the rail trail were withdrawn from last spring’s Town Meeting to allow more time for BCRTA to define the project scope and demonstrate its ability to raise the necessary funds. Supporters in Needham returned to the town meeting on November 4 with over $100,000 in the coffers of the BCRTA, evidence of the generosity of many Needham residents and our sharpened fundraising skills. This time, the article passed with flying colors, and if the remaining funds can be raised (and we have no doubt they will), Needham will have a rail trail in 2014 or 2015.
You can follow the fund-raising progress in Needham at their new website (http://needham.baycolonyrailtrail.org).
In Medfield, the Study Committee took a wait-and-see approach in 2013. Committee members felt while the project was on hold in both Dover and Needham, trying to charge ahead would not have been the best use of their time and energy. Consequently, there was no warrant article for the rail trail in Medfield this year.
Momentum is building
In retrospect, and in spite of some setbacks, we can say that 2013 has been a terrific year for the project. Newton will likely have a trail early in 2014, and Needham will begin trail construction soon after that. With Iron Horse Preservation Society doing the work in Newton and Needham, their equipment will be in the area already, and Medfield could follow right after Needham.
This initial round of construction will leave us with a trail that is a bit more fragmented than most would like to see. However, there is one thing that we have learned in over 4 years of rail trail advocating: it is better to take small steps than no steps.
The following updated map shows the different trail sections and the year when construction starts.
- The Newton section (in green) will run from Curtis Street to the Charles River in Newton and end there with a scenic overlook.
- The northern section in Needham with the bridge over Route 128 and the Charles to Newton will remain in its current state, with the Route 128 bridge being dismantled as part of the lane-widening project.
- The southern section in Needham (in blue) will likely run from High Rock Street to the Charles River and end there with a scenic overlook.
- The northern section in Dover between the Charles River and Haven Street will remain unfinished.
- The southern section in Dover (in red) will run from Haven Street through the center of town to Hunt Drive.
- The Medfield section (in yellow) will connect to the Dover section at Hunt Drive and end at Harding Street. While Hunt Drive technically does not constitute the Medfield-Dover line, we hope that it will be possible to let the Medfield section end at Hunt Drive and not in the woods a few hundred yards to its south.
A trail to nowhere?
“What if Dover decides not to build a trail?” people have asked. The answer is simple. We want a continuous trail between Medfield and Needham but will accept that the trail may come together in pieces. Someone has to put the first piece on the table, though, and if Medfield is ready and Dover is not, we should not wait. There is a lot of support for a trail in Dover and a talented and motivated group of people is working on making the project palatable for the town.
What to expect in 2014?
Newton is currently constructing a trail. Needham will very likely follow next year. Medfield could also have a trail in 2014 or early 2015. For this to be possible, Medfield residents will have to vote in favor of a rail trail warrant article that will likely include a one-time expense for an insurance policy and the leasing the corridor from the MBTA.
The Rail Trail Study Committee will work out a step-by-step plan and schedule for the construction phase and will detail the projected costs and present the recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.
IHPS installs stone dust on the Danvers rail trail
A budget estimate for phase 1 in Medfield
||Insurance policy (50% refunded by the state)
||Removal of rails and ties, grading (if done by Iron Horse Preservation Society)
||Road crossings – rail removal and paving (if done by DPW in collaboration with IHPS)
||Stone dust surface (cost of material installed by IHPS)
||Amenities for parking, landscaping along the trail, signage, limited fencing
||Maintenance budget in escrow for 4 years (estimate)
If the town can cover the one-time cost for the insurance policy, the Bay Colony Rail Trail Association will raise the funds to cover the estimated $100,000 cost for phase 1. In Needham, funding is coming from individuals, businesses, raffles, local family foundations, and money that was appropriated two years ago in the state transportation bond bill. We believe that a fundraising campaign in Medfield will be a bit different in its make-up but equally successful. We will start our fundraising campaign in Medfield once the Needham fundraising goal has been reached.
This project has come a long way, one step at a time, over several years. With your continued support, we can see this through to a beautiful trail for all of us to enjoy. Stay tuned for more updates over the next months as we get closer to the town meeting in April.
The BCRTA Board