Category Archives: Bay Colony Rail Trail

Sidewalk planning


In response to a citizen discussion on Facebook, at the Board of Selectmen meeting last night I brought up appointing a citizen “Sidewalk Study Committee.”  I have been advocating for better planning around sidewalk construction ever since I noted years ago that the then process seemed ad hoc and came mainly from DPW Superintendent Ken Feeney. I thought the town needed more thoughtful and robust planning, and a process open to resident participation.

Last night, in response to my suggestion to appoint a citizen “Sidewalk Study Committee,” Mike Sullivan opined that he preferred using the moribund Safety Committee, which is where sidewalk planning was sent to die several years ago (as that committee was then newly created with Mike, Ken, and the MPD Chief and had only one independent resident member).  After sidewalks were turfed to that then newly created Safety Committee by my then selectmen colleagues, about five to six years ago, we never heard back from that committee about sidewalks.

Last night my fellow selectmen did not support appointing a citizen study committee at this time, but Mike Marcucci opined about the need for a more robust planning process about future sidewalk construction and also financing their construction via bonding – as we cannot easily afford to pay for them out of the operating budget. That makes me hopeful that a majority of the selectmen want planning about sidewalks, and to actually spend money to build them.

To me it all about making safe connections to the downtown from each part of town. I can imagine that trails could also be used. In my part of town, the Bay Colony Rail Trail when built could connect and funnel most of the North side of town down to Harding Street at West Mill Street – and then the connection to the downtown would have to be figured out from that point.  Although we really need to also look at the more direct route along Harding Street from the town line at Dover.

MAPC map of whole area

The MAPC also shared their map showing the existing trails (in green), trails in the wroks (in yellow), and those they hope to create (in red), for most of eastern Massachusetts.

20160729-MAPC-whole area

Bike paths & hiking trails


The ad hoc group met with David Loutzenheiser, Senior Transportation
Planner at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) this morning about bicycle and hiking trails in Medfield.  Attending were Town Planner, Sarah Raposa, Town Administrator, Mike Sullivan, Bay Colony Rail Trail Committee chair, Christian Donner, BCRT committee member, George Hinkley, interested resident Alec Stevens, and interested selectman, me.

Per what the MAPC person told Sarah before the meeting, he is working on two rail trail feasibility projects: (1) Wrentham/Norfolk/Walpole/Norwood and (2) Bellingham/Medway/Millis/Medfield.  Apparently, he has funding to begin work on these projects and depending on the communities’ levels of interest would like to do so either this fall or next spring.

At the meeting he focused on

  • the Bay Colony Rail Trail (in yellow on the above map),
  • the possibility of running a rail trail along side of the active north-south rail line (also in yellow on the above map), and
  • hiking trail connectors
    • from downtown to Rocky Woods (needs a boardwalk North of Hinkley Pond)
    • from Elm Street area over to the Bubbling Brook area
    • from Rocky Woods to the Blue Hills

The Bay Colony Rail Trail will probably proceed.  The North South rail line trail would link many of the main features and sites in town in ways that would dramatically improve the town.  Alec Stevens has proposed this in the past, based on his experience with a successful one he knew while growing up in Philadelphia.

It is going to be a long process, requiring lots of work and planning, and it has started.

Trails, per MAPC

The Bay Colony Rail Trail Committee and others are meeting next Tuesday with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) about bike paths and trials.  Today the MAPC person, David Loutzenheiser, shared its map of trails in town.  This is the email from David –

Here is a map of Medfield showing all the trails including proposed rail trails and regional foot trails.  Bay Circuit and Charles River link are existing.  Tri-Town and a connection to Norfolk are proposed.  We can talk more about these concepts on Tuesday.  Any glaring errors, I can fix on Monday. Will bring a large copy of the map.

For more information on our regional greenway vision and maps see:

See you on Tues.




BCRT status


Photo of the newly opened Bay Colony Rail Trail in Needham.

Bay Colony Rail Trail Status

Evan Weisenfeld recently asked me what I knew about the current status of the Bay Colony Rail Trail (BCRT) in town, and since I suspect this is a topic of great interest, I will respond here where more will see it, than directly to his comment.

In my mind there continues to be strong interest to build the Medfield section of the BCRT, which,  from memory, is less than 1.5 miles long.  It would run from Ice House Road to the Dover line.  The town study committee that was appointed several years ago to look into building the BCRT, I believe, was waiting to see what Dover did, and now that Dover has voted at its town meeting last week to proceed, I expect that things will start up anew in Medfield.

Christian Donner has been our town’s longest involved proponent of the BCRT, and I read this past week that he thinks we should go ahead with the BCRT without the environmental insurance (it costs the town about $25,000, if the matching state monies still exist, and $50,000 if not), and that we should build it with the use of our DPW, town funds, and private fund raising.  If we build it from Ice House Road to the Dover line, I expect Dover would build their section out to meet our section.  The BCRT will be a great asset to the town and the region once it is built.

The financial landscape has changed because of the declining price available from  recycling the rails, so that the money earned from salvaging the rails will no longer pay for the total installation costs, as it did in the past, so funds will need to be secured for the building of the BCRT.  Needham got about $200,000 in state monies from an earmark that Rep. Garlick got passed several years ago, which they combined with monies that were raised privately.

BCRT status update

Christian Donner kindly updated me yesterday in a lengthy call on the status of the Bay Colony Rail Trail:

  • Newton has built its section, from Rte 9 to the Charles River
  • Needham is proceeding with its section from the Dover line more than half way across town
  • Dover is working through with a local citizen group what it will be doing
  • Christian recently walked the Medfield section with Joe Hattum who runs Iron Horse Preservation, a nonprofit company that builds rail trails in exchange for the right to salvage the metal from the rails.  The good news learned from Joe was that the Medfield section has mostly heavier gauge tracks, meaning there is more iron, meaning there is more salvage value, and meaning Joe says that Iron Horse can provide Medfield with a stone dust trail for no cost to the town at all, whereas other towns have had to pay something to get their rail trails.
  • Christian reports that while Newton and Needham opted to pay the approximate $25,000 cost for the insurance against third party liability for those being injured by the environmental hazards along the rail trail, many more towns by far have opted to proceed without that insurance due the the exceedingly low risk that the towns would ever have to indemnify the MBTA under the contractual obligations that the MBTA requires towns to accept as part of the 99 year lease of the right of way.  Christian and I agree that the Medfield section probably is unlikely to have been heavily polluted with hazardous wastes, and that it is highly unlikely that a rail trail user would ever be harmed by hazardous waste while using the Medfield section of the Bay Colony Rail Trail.  Therefore, if Medfield decides to forgo the insurance, Medfield could have its own section of the Bay Colony Rail Trail without cost if a future town meeting opts to proceed.

Bay Colony Rail Trail by 2014?

This from the Bay Colony Rail Trail Association –

Update for Medfield, 11/12//2013
On Track with the Bay Colony Rail Trail
The Bay Colony Rail Trail (BCRT) is the 7-mile long recreational path that traverses through the towns of Needham, Dover and Medfield.  The path in Medfield runs from Ice House Road north towards Hunt Drive in Dover. More information is available at
Dear Friends,
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 (

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.

Map of trail sections

  • 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.

Stone dust in Danvers
IHPS installs stone dust on the Danvers rail trail

A budget estimate for phase 1 in Medfield

$35,000 Insurance policy (50% refunded by the state)
$0 Removal of rails and ties, grading (if done by Iron Horse Preservation Society)
$0 Road crossings – rail removal and paving (if done by DPW in collaboration with IHPS)
$30,000 Stone dust surface (cost of material installed by IHPS)
$50,000 Amenities for parking, landscaping along the trail, signage, limited fencing
$20,000 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.

Best regards,

The BCRTA Board

Parking Options
Options for parking and trail access at Harding Street (Source: Rail Trail Study Committee)
logo 2BCRT volunteers needed… 

The Bay Colony Rail Trail needs help with several activities.

  • Fundraising
  • Project Management
  • Outreach to abutters and others
  • Research & Documentation
  • Marketing Communications
  • North Segment Planning

If you might be interested, you’ll have an opportunity to raise your hand and learn more at our regular meetings.

Or if you can’t make it to the meeting, drop us an email at and we’ll get you connected to the right people.

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Bay Colony Rail Trail Association
23 Mackintosh Ave.
Needham, MA 02492
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