Sentinel and Enterprise, April 4, 2005
want to see bike trail in Townsend
-- Bonnie Mullen regularly drives her 7-year-old son to Pepperell to
ride his bike.
no place to walk around here," said Mullen, who lives on Townsend's
busy Main Street.
there is a small dirt trail behind her house, Mullen said walkers there
must often compete with four-wheelers flying by.
very noisy," she said.
hopes a local group pushing to build a bike path along an abandoned
railroad bed just behind her house will be successful.
think it's great if you live on a busy street," Mullen said.
Massachusetts communities have turned former rail lines into bike
trails, including nearby Ayer, Groton and Pepperell.
of residents formed the Squannacook River Rail Trail Feasibility Study
Committee in October 2002 to study the possibility of converting 9.4
miles of dilapidated tracks running through Groton and Townsend into a
committee in March completed a new feasibility report, addressing
several concerns abutters and selectmen expressed in the summer 2003.
committee now proposes to build a 2.4-mile
trail along the rail bed from the Harbor Village Mall on Main Street to
Depot Street in the center of town. The rail bed, which is roughly 80
feet wide, is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.
path would go from Townsend Harbor to the center of town. As it is,
you'd have to risk your life on (Route) 119 to get from one area to the
other," committee member Bill Rideout said Tuesday.
committee plans to meet with the selectmen after Town Election on April
25 to discuss taking the next step, Rideout said.
we're asking them is to request a copy of the (MBTA) lease to figure
things out," Rideout said. "The general rule of thumb is it's
seven years from when the trail is first proposed to when they're
rolling out a bulldozer."
member Al Futterman said the MBTA offers communities interested in
converting abandoned railways into trails an 85-year lease for $1. He
noted some communities must purchase old railways from private companies
for substantially more.
a good deal," Futterman said of the MBTA's offer.
trail could cost as little as $40,000 a mile for a bare-earth trail, or
as much as $300,000 per mile for an asphalt trail, according to the
committee's March 2005 report.
legislation states the federal government would cover 80 percent of a
proposed rail trail's construction costs, while the state government
would cover 10 percent and the community covers 10 percent. However,
there is new legislation pending that would increase the state's
contribution to 20 percent, Futterman said.
Peter Collins said he is dead set against the project.
being an outdoorsman, I'm vehemently opposed to taking a bulldozer
through the woods and creating a trail for what some are portraying as a
wilderness experience," Collins said Tuesday. "They want
people to enjoy the wilderness by destroying wild habitat."
said he wouldn't even consider the project unless the committee has
determined the MBTA maintains clear title of the proposed pathway.
Joseph Shank, who owns Harbor Auto Body, Inc. at 98 Main St., said his
land extends onto the old rail bed but nobody
from the committee has contacted him about his deed.
have not done what the selectmen have asked, which was to see if there
are any deed problems," Shank said.
noted the MBTA owns enough of the rail behind Harbor Auto Body to put in
a 12-foot wide path without encroaching on Shank's property.
said he wouldn't allow a path to run behind his property.
going to vow to fight them to my death," Shank said. "There
are businesses on that Groton trail that have lost business because
people on the trail stop in and say, 'Oh, my child has to use the
bathroom.' Do we need it in Townsend? No. The town of Townsend has how
many acres of conservation land? Make a path through the woods."
also is worried about the additional work the local public safety
departments would endure from a bike path.
way my tax bill is, I have a hard time putting more strain on the
police, fire, and ambulance departments to support a bike path,"
Chief Erving Marshall believes that the positive effects of a bike path
outweigh the negative ones.
have concerns about how to patrol it. I have concerns about access for
emergency vehicles. But at the same time, an unused railroad bed can
attract an unfavorable element," Marshall said. "I'd like to
see it come through. I know from talking to both people in Pepperell and
Groton, it's been very positive for both communities. It's amazing how
many people use it down there. I think it has positive effects on
Steve Cloutier of Tyler Road said he frequently uses Pepperell's rail
is a beautiful, paved rail trail. You can go cross-country skiing, ride
a bike," Cloutier said. "Townsend is perfect for it. The town
needs a bike path, and a lot of people would use it."
said he used to live in Groton, where the path runs very close to a
number of houses. He could sympathize with Townsend residents along Main
Street, whose back yards would abut the trail.
Newcombe, who lives at 112 Main St., would be able to see a bike path
from inside her home.
just think, with this whole day and age, it
invites trouble," Newcombe said. "I liked it when the train
went by once a day. But a path -- I wouldn't have privacy anymore. And
that would be at all hours of the day."
Administrator Greg Barnes feels the path would benefit the town in
think it could be a great quality of life benefit and serve as an
economic development tool. There are a lot of mom-and-pop stores along
(Route) 119. For example, stores that sell antiques might benefit from
the enhanced foot traffic," Barnes said. "I also find it ties
in both our developed and undeveloped areas. You can get an ice cream
and then go out to the woods."