On Track with the Bay Colony Rail Trail

The Bay Colony Rail Trail is a planned 7-mile multi-use greenway extending from Newton to Medfield.  The Upper Falls Greenway is the segment that is farthest along; track has been removed and further progress is awaiting removal of the railroad ties, which have been stacked, from the site.  People are also working in Needham, Dover, and Medfield to advance the project.  Volunteers are needed. Here’s an update from BCRT:

Dear Friends,

2014 has been a pivotal year for the entire Bay Colony Rail Trail, with significant developments in Newton and Needham, and positive movement in Dover and Medfield.

A (Relatively) Fast Moving Project

When we began the project in 2009, our earliest advisor was Craig Della Penna, a seasoned rail trail advocate based in Western Massachusetts. Craig offered many very helpful suggestions, and helped us to connect with local rail trail aficionados as well as key people in State Government.

 

Our official kick-off was on July 23, 2009 at Red Wing Bay. The occasion was attended by Town officials of Medfield, Dover, Needham and Newton, as well as officials from State agencies.

At that meeting (photos here), Craig told the assembled group that the fastest rail trail he had ever seen developed in Massachusetts took six years. We quietly took that historical note as a challenge, and wondered whether we could deliver our rail trail by 2015.

Now, five and a half years later, we have gained a hard-won appreciation for what it takes to develop a rail trail. The decision to fund and develop the trail through private-public partnerships with local towns has proven to be very helpful in moving the project forward. Though we want to avoid declaring victory prematurely, we can take heart that, thanks to support from everyone on this mailing list, and through very productive collaboration with local towns, 2015 looks like a year when BCRTA supported rail trails will appear in both Newton and Needham.

Newton

Driven by a local neighborhood group, the Newton portion of the trail – called the Upper Falls Greenway – which runs parallel to Needham St from the Charles River almost to Centre St, is the furthest along. Rails and ties have been removed, and a simple “Sunset Deck” has been constructed on the west boundary of the Newton trail, overhanging the Newton half of the Charles River. A stone dust surface is planned, and should be in place in the first half of 2015.

Across the river, the Needham Heights portion of the trail will be addressed in the future following Route 128 Add-a-Lane project construction, as well as other local developments.

Needham

On the Southwest side of Needham, BCRTA is actively working with Needham Town officials on finalizing project plans for a rail trail that will run from the Town Forest near High Rock Street Westward toward the Charles River. This segment of the BCRT has not yet been named.

Together, we collectively met the $235,000 target we projected for the initial phases of the trail.  Based on that funding, we expect that the project will be put out for proposals from contractors in a few weeks.  When the actual bids arrive, we may need to make adjustments to the plan or raise additional money.  Our goal remains, however, to build the full trail and begin construction as early as possible in 2015.

If more funding is needed to complete the Needham stretch, the Town will look internally and BCRTA will reach out especially to local businesses to close any shortfall. We’ll provide an update in the weeks to come on our fundraising targets.

For updates on the Needham project, including the current draft plans, please visit the Needham Bay Colony rail trail website.

Dover

Dover will likely look to develop its 3.5 mile trail in increments, starting with the 2.5 mile Southwestern portion that runs from Springdale Avenue to the Medfield border.

A local non-profit called Friends of Dover Greenway (FDG) has been organized to provide local leadership for that portion of the 7-mile corridor. BCRTA is working actively with FDG to ensure their success, including supporting their fundraising efforts. In September, we provided the final $10,000 needed to fund an estimated $50,000 Planning and Design study, the same kind of study that was done in Needham in 2013, and which worked so well in getting the project started in Needham.

Dover Friends gathering 2

Medfield

Led by Christian Donner and the Medfield Study Committee, the Town is considering moving forward without purchasing the environmental insurance. This could mean a zero-cost solution in Medfield, since environmental factors are minimal. It is assumed that the Town would pick up costs related to intersection approaches. The target date for the proposal is the Medfield Town Meeting in Spring 2015.

The Path to Completion

For the past few years we’ve understood that the Bay Colony Rail Trail is not just a one 7-mile recreational trail project, but instead consists of several smaller projects. The full vision will materialize over time in segments, as circumstances, funding and support enable.

After a relatively short amount of time (rail trail projects are usually measured in decades), the first few segments are on the verge of completion. Our hope and expectation is that these two wins will encourage more support and progress elsewhere. 2015 will be a big year in this respect, and hopefully will enable full project completion without another six year wait!

Donations Welcome!

If you’d like to help support the ongoing planning and development process for the overall trail, or any town-specific portion, there is still much work to do and several projects to fund. The easiest way to contribute is on the BCRT website, where there’s a prominent yellow “Donate” button. For Town-specific donations, use the Needham or Dover sites, where you’ll see a similar Donate button.

Happy Trails,

The Directors of the Bay Colony Rail Trail Association