Rail Trail

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Rail Trail

Postby swamper on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:25 pm

From TewksburyPatch:

http://tewksbury.patch.com/articles/pet ... ?ncid=M255

Pete Miller Pitches Rail Trail to Community Preservation Committee

Resident proposes new bike paths to run through Tewksbury.
By Brandon Schillemat | Email the author | 7:40am

Pete Miller spoke before the Community Preservation Committee Nov. 16 about the possibility of starting a bike path from old rail trails in Tewksbury.

"I'm very supportive of this," said Steven Sadwick, the Director of Community Development regarding the proposed trails. "They're a great community asset to have."

The idea sprang up when Miller, a Shawsheen Street resident, received a bike last year and trekked along the established public trails in Cape Cod. It was then he noticed lack of viable trails in Tewksbury.

"I knew that we had some (unused) rail beds in town, and wouldn't it be great if we could convert at least some of them into usable bike trails for the community," said Miller.

Miller is far from alone. There are many more people from Tewksbury who want to see local walking and biking paths.

"Residents had expressed a strong desire for biking and walking trails in the town, especially in connection with the Bay Circuit Trail," said Nancy Reed, chair of the Community Preservation Committee.

In fact, in visioning sessions for the 2009 Tewksbury Open Space and Recreation plan, the shortage of local trails was perceived to be a major flaw in the town's open space offerings.

The exact location where these trails may run isn't known, but there are several possibilities throughout Tewksbury. The abandoned lines of the Lowell and Lawrence, and Salem and Lowell Railroads pass through Tewksbury and could be ideal biking trails.

One option would be for the trails to be self-contained. Trails would be located and accessible only to Tewksbury. Another, more appealing, option is to enable the trails to interconnect with other bike paths in the area, very much like what backers of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Chelmsford, and the Bay Circuit Trails are trying in neighboring towns.

"The Bay Trail Circuit … is an attempt to connect Newburyport with…someplace down on the South Shore, (which) would run through Tewksbury, but hasn't been built out yet," said Sadwick.

Part of the Bay Circuit Trail runs through 400 preserved acres of the town's state hospital land and is a promising opportunity.

As to the benefits that Tewksbury will receive because of the trails, they are many and varied.

"This will be an asset to our community by providing exercise, enjoyment and access to our beautiful open spaces," said Reed.

Miller also believes that the trail will promote greater connectivity among residents and increased traffic for businesses near the trail.

"It's a great social enhancement to the community," he said. "Every time I've been out on a bike trail, you're seeing other people, meeting other people. You're certainly more connected than you would be if you're just driving in a car."

Miller wants to be sure that this project continues with the maximum amount of support from residents and those who may be affected by the trail.

"One of the things that I hold as an important tenet to what we're doing is that whatever we do here, we stay in good communication with all the residents and any potential abutters," said Miller. "I have no desire whatsoever to disrupt anybody's backyard or anybody's neighborhood."

Right now the endeavor is in its infancy, and both Pete Miller and Steven Sadwick agree that more research must be performed before any concrete plans can be laid.

"There (are) organizations out there…some Rails to Trails organization that has experience both in the Commonwealth and across the country of converting abandoned rail lines to trails and bike paths," said Sadwick. "So that's one place that I think he needs to look to."

Don't expect to see a bike trail anytime soon. Large-scale projects like this take time, and the project is still in the very initial phases.

"Getting the word out that he wants to do this is a huge first step," Reed said of the work ahead of Miller. "Something like this could take at least 5 to 10 years depending on the variables."

"It can be a long process depending upon multiple variables: who owns the right of way, have portions of the right of way been sold, where your funding source is coming from, and to what level of specifications is it being built," said Sadwick.

Miller plans to forge ahead with defining the details of the development, and has laid out his objectives.

"So from here to just really kind of research what would it entail, what do you have to do to convert a rail bed to a bike trail, who's done this before?" said Miller. "There are these three rail beds. Would I like to see them all become bike trails? Sure. But … that will depend on access, cost, things like that."

Anyone with further questions for Miller regarding his vision and hopes for a bike path in Tewksbury can contact tewksburyrailtrails@gmail.com.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby GuitarTeacher on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:53 pm

I would LOVE a rail trail in Tewksbury!
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby moretpani on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:58 pm

I would LOVE to see CPA have enough money to buy the state land if and when it goes on the market. Otherwise we are looking at more 40B.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby bferrari on Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:43 pm

Too bad the CPA wasn't approached about buying the "Deerhaven Estates" land since it has been sold on the cheap. What a great way to get into 20+ acres of land with a an already existing wide trail on it that connects to Raven Hill and is alongside the working railroad track.

Andover is rife with open AVIS land everywhere you go. We have condos.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby Harry on Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:05 pm

I would need to know this....

Would the Taxpayers money be used to BUY the land from the railroad or is the money being used to just build a trail?

It's the Preservation, not rent, act. I would hate to see Taxpayer dollars used to simply build something that could eventually be sold.

For the life of me I can't understand why CPA and the State can't get together to preserve the State Lands. I can think of no better use.
Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby kleonard on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:27 pm

From what I am learning about rail trails (having purchased a bike recently):

- There are many efforts going on around the state, including a "Border To Boston" trail to run from the NH state line to at least Wakefield. Part of that is a linear park in Topsfield that will run down through Danvers and Peabody, over through Lynnfield. A lot of this is in planning or construction. An old MBTA right of way is being revived to bring a trail from Rte 16 in Everett to over near the ocean in Lynn--that's under construction now in various phases in various towns along the way.

- Maine has a rail trail almost 90 miles long that recently opened, NH one about 70, and there are plans in NH to create a rail trail system that spans a lot of the state. As of today in NH you can take a rail trail from Lebanon to just north of Concord (I have walked and x-c skied several miles of it along Mascoma Lake--nice), then you can take a trail from Manchester to get you near the coast. A trail is expected to be built north from Methuen, MA through Salem, Windham, Derry, to Manchester and Goffstown, then who knows.

- The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and Nashua Rail Trail are nearby and worth checking out, whether you bike, skate, walk, x-c ski, and so on. The Bruce Freeman will eventually go to Framingham.

- As of today if you ride your bike over to Concord Rd. in Billerica, you can pick up an old narrow gauge rail trail, get to the Bedford Depot, then take the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway to Alewife (Cambridge). There is a rail trail in the "thinking" stages in Billerica to revive an old railbed and extend the old narrow gauge trail to Rte 129, even closer to Tewksbury.

- I can find no rail trail plans in Tewksbury other than Mr. Miller's article. An e-mail to him has not yet been answered. There's info about the Bay Circuit Trail, however.

- When a railroad like the MBTA has a right of way for their unused tracks, they will often lease the right of way to the town for 99 years. No mention of cost. Other options are for the rail trail organizers (or the town) to purchase it, perhaps some kind of take-over of abandoned right of way land, and/or seek a right of way from current land owners. If we were to revive the old railbed from North St. to Old Main St. there would probably be a section or two of old right of way with a lot of private ownership and maybe even encroachment, so it may not even be possible to recover that railbed for rail trail use.

- Rail trails are often started by volunteers and then maintained by "Friends Of ..." organizations, at least in part. The Nashua River Rail Trail was constructed by Mass DOT, so "we" paid for it.

- If the proposed rail trail has ties and tracks, the Iron Horse Preservation Society will clear it, grade the trail, and put down crushed stone, all for trade for the tracks and ties. That's a deal. Many communities are taking them up on this.

- Rail Trails can be unimproved and just gravel or dirt (Concord's Reformatory Branch Trail, for example, not yet built out, just "as-is" for now), some are stone dust, some are paved. The paved ones require less maintenance from what I read. If paved, you can fly on a bike. Asphalt is the favored surface with 2' wide shoulders as a plant barrier and equestrian and jogging use. Trails vary, though, from cowpaths with ruts to the relatively new Bruce Freeman which is very smooth.

Some links:
http://www.traillink.com/stateactivity/ ... rails.aspx
http://www.nhstateparks.org/explore/bur ... rails.aspx

Google Maps has a bicycle map display option now. It is very helpful.

Should we support more trail development? As a Libertarian I say negative on public finances, but if Tewksbury's voters would be behind rail trails, bike paths, or hiking paths like the Bay Circuit Trail, then the Town should provide support for various organizations (like "Friends Of ..." and Iron Horse Preservation, the Bay Circuit Alliance and AMC) to help work through the endless maze of bureaucracy with the state and other entities, help with permits, and so on. That's government's job.

The only "possible" way I would consider using taxpayer funds for these things is if these paths could be construed as transportation corridors much like roads are, and we pay good money for every pothole on East Street. The Minuteman Commuter Bikeway is a 'road' for bikes, and it is used for commuting into Cambridge. If you lived in Nashua and worked in Groton, you'd be there in a few minutes on the rail trail. Is that a 'valid' use of taxpayer dollars, given that these could be transportation corridors like roads are?

Regardless of where the funds come from, are the trails worth it? Are the benefits worth it? Ask the owners of the ice cream stands in Pepperell and Chelmsford. :-) B&Bs in NH are now catering to the rail trail riders. So there is some economic benefit, probably niche. You will hear about exercise benefits (you do benefit if you use the trails...if you don't, you won't, which most people don't), you will hear about abutters enjoying the trails in their backyards and rising property values in the communities. Is all of this true? Is there a tangible "benefit" to the community when the community caters to walkers, hikers, bikers, x-c skiers, snowshoers, and equestrians through the support and creation of trails? I invite you to visit the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Nashua River Rail Trail, and the Minuteman Bikeway to see for yourself.

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Re: Rail Trail

Postby bferrari on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:32 pm

I strongly support any rail trail that comes through Tewksbury. The existence / fortification of rail trails are one of the tools that we can use to help prevent excessive and rampant development while at the same time promote outdoor living, excercise, and add to the quality of life in our town. Look at any town that has popular rail trails... they are all "destination" towns.. places where people want to be.

Let us join these ranks and be part of the great movement outdoors!
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby grandmasboys on Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:49 am

This is a great idea. It would be a nice family day.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby SuDZ27 on Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:09 pm

Is there any newer info? I see this started around Dec of 2010.

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Re: Rail Trail

Postby kleonard on Thu May 10, 2012 10:14 pm

Attempts to contact the person mentioned in the Patch article about rail trails have failed, unfortunately.

I spoke with a member of the CPC, and, yes, a rail trail is conceivable, but although I'm far from an expert, I'm marginally familiar with what it takes to get one of these through.

1) Most of the available rights of way seem to have been taken over in Tewksbury, either legally or through encroachment, and the available railbeds are broken up into smaller sections by private land, structures, roads, or other obstructions. I know of only two abandoned lines in town: Salem and Lowell (WalMart to the mall property (near the Rte 125/93 interchange)); a spur that goes from Boxcar Blvd. north and by Hagget's Pond (Lawrence Branch of the Boston and Lowell RR). Ref: http://www.oldrr.com/slopen.html

2) The most desirable rail trails "go somewhere" and provide, for example, a safe path for children to get to school, a commuter path, or connect community attractions, scenic areas, and so on. Of course you can view the trail as "just for exercise".

3) It takes several years and several hundred thousand dollars to get a rail trail through the hoops. Lots of research, permits, approvals, engineering--you name it. TE grants have been cut in the recent transportation bill passed in Congress, so the money we send to DC coming back to us has shrunk. The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail expects to spend $5.5-6M to study, engineer, permit, clear, and pave an additional 5 miles or so (paving is very expensive). The State helps, but they expect private citizens, businesses, and the cities/towns to pitch in as well, especially with the engineering and study costs up front, to show that the citizens are serious.

4) In order to get a rail trail from start to finish, there has to be a group of active participants and community support. There must be a team to maintain the trail after it is built. I spent several hours on Saturday clearing a drainage ditch on the Derry Rail Trail, and I've helped clean up a small section of the Danvers Rail Trail. 5 or 6 people showed up to help. Is that enough? If I lived closer to the Bruce Freeman, I'd sign up to maintain a section. It's a lot of work, and dedicated people are needed. Does Tewksbury have such individuals?

5) Assuming everything is in place, if the ties and rails are there and can be donated, actual construction can be free courtesy of the Iron Horse Preservation Society (packed down recycled asphalt surface...putting down asphalt is a great expense but a better surface). They are doing this in Methuen right now and soon in Salem, NH. But getting to that point takes years.

When it comes down to it, the only abandoned spur that "goes anywhere" in Tewksbury is North St. to WalMart. It is about 2 miles long. The rails and ties are still there. It parallels Rte 38, giving an off-road and very safe alternative to, say, riding a bike on 38 from the center of town northward. There may be access to various shops along that stretch of 38 from side roads. If children from the apartments or homes in the area attend North St. School, that's a route for them. I do not know how much of that railbed is built on or privately owned by now.

There is a short section of that same railbed heading east from the cemetery on East. St. to the gun club on Chandler (I've X-C skied on it), then I believe it's on private land, coming out at the pump station on East St., and then extends to 93 where it is cut. Part of the old right of way before 93 is a road now, a/t Google Maps. (The railway extends to Salem, with only parts still intact, including a large section that has become the Independence Greenway in Peabody.)

The second abandoned railbed of which I'm aware heads to Pinnacle from Box Car Blvd. through the woods, is now built on at Lynne's Way, picks up again afterward and goes through some conservation land and a private lot or two. Heading out of Tewksbury it's on more conservation land, then goes past Haggett's Pond (which is a nice walk, btw). It is cut at the 495/93 interchange.

I'm not sure if the person in the Patch article was talking about the North St. to WalMart or the one that crosses Pinnacle St. Or even something as nuts as rail-with-trail on the live freight line that crosses North St today (yes, rail-with-trail is an option, but usually only on lightly used lines). My guess is the abandoned North St. to WalMart spur, since that does offer a viable off-38 alternative. I don't know if anyone else in the community has been looking into this stuff, or if it's simply too far gone to even think about at this point, and time and effort would be better spent on, say, the Bay Circuit Trail.

Anyway, I'd like to know if there's anything I've missed here. Perhaps the gentleman in the Patch article is reading and can respond, too.

I'm saddened that the Salem and Lowell is so far gone. Could you imagine a path for bikes, joggers, skaters, and so on extending from Lowell to the ocean in Salem? NH almost lost the Granite State Rail Trail (Methuen, MA to Lebanon, NH), as the railbed was allowed to sit for years until parts started to be purchased. Now the towns have woken up, and NH is going gangbusters on this stuff (some of it mandated by the I93 widening project), with each town responsible for its own local section along the way. The Bruce Freeman is one such effort in MA, and there are several others (mentioned in my earlier post). It takes a bit of time and a lot of dedication to get these done, and a huge amount of community support. I'm not entirely sure that Tewksbury has enough raw materials to work with in terms of old railbeds, however, and I'm not sure how good of an idea that 2 mile chunk is...but maybe someone knows something I don't.

Well, even if a rail trail can't come to Tewksbury, the various rail trail efforts around New England can still use everyone's help. Most are just grass roots organizations. Check out the Danvers Rail Trail's June 2 celebration for all the work they've done: http://www.danversrailtrail.org/. The recently paved Derry Rail Trail will be having their "official" opening on that day, too: http://www.derryrailtrail.org/ -- all are welcome.

The best part of my work on the Derry Rail Trail on Saturday was going for a 15 mile ride on the trail afterward and seeing the trail crowded with cyclists, walkers, joggers, skaters, families...and even an elderly lady slowly pedaling along on a recumbent trike being encouraged by her family. The trail was actually a bit crowded, which is a good problem to have. They couldn't keep people off it just after it was paved in November.

(Sorry, yes, this is currently my pet interest...I drive my co-workers and friends nuts. :) )

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Re: Rail Trail

Postby PaperBoy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:50 am

http://www.eventkeeper.com/code/events. ... urroom=&cu

It looks like the 'Tewksbury Rail Trails Board' is having a 'Kickoff Meeting' this Saturday, January 5 at 11am in the library's Meeting Room. Contact is Pete Miller -- 978-726-3348 and TewksburyRailTrails@gmail.com. Happened to stumble across this thread after googling Mr. Miller's email address.
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Re: Rail Trail

Postby bferrari on Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:32 am

This meeting is today... be part of something bigger than our town that will also help make our town a more desirable place to live.
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