Squannacook Greenways logo

Oct 4, 2017: Recent businesses supporting the rail trail

The following local companies have recently supported the Squannacook River Rail Trail at the Granite Pillar level ($1000). We ask you to thank them the next time you patronize their business!

Arrow Septic logo

Arrow Septic, Townsend

Workers Credit Union logo

Workers Credit Union

Dunkin Donuts logo

The Catalano Companies - Dunkin' Donuts

North End Subaru logo

North End Subaru Mazda

Nashoba Paddler logo

Nashoba Paddler
For the full list of Granite Pillar donors, see our donation page.
July 3, 2017: Squannacook Greenways wins $10,000 grant from Bruce J. Anderson Foundation for second year in a row

Squannacook Greenways is pleased to announce that they were again awarded a $10,000 grant from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation in July 2017. With this grant our captial campaign has exceeded $117,000, nearly 4/5 of the way to our goal of $150,000. With this amount in the capital campaign, Squannacook Greenways will start contacting potential contractors as soon as permitting is complete. This is the second $10,000 grant we have received from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, and we deeply appreciate the important role this group has played in bringing us to the construction phase.

Informed by intelligence, sensitivity, and the knowledge of many countries and cultures, Bruce J. Anderson was a serious and idealistic young man who cared deeply about the problems he saw around him. The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation was established in 1980 by Bruce's brothers and sisters to honor Bruce and support the causes he championed. Squannacook Greenways, with its goal of making life better and more active for all residents, but especially younger ones, is proud to have been chosen to receive this grant.

The Boston foundation logo

The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation is a supporting organization of the Boston Foundation.
June 15, 2017 : Squannacook Greenways wins $15,000 grant from Community Foundation of North Central Mass

Squannacook Greenways is pleased to announce that in June of 2017 we received a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. With this grant, the construction fundraising is now at $106 thousand dollars, well past the 2/3 of our $150,000 goal. Thanks to this generous grant, we are preparing to finally enter the construction phase of this project.

Community Foundation grant ceremony

Click the image above to watch a one minute video about this grant.

This is not the first time the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, which serves 33 communities in our area, has played a critical role in the success of the Squannacook River Rail Trail. In 2013, they gave Squannacook Greenways a grant that played a key role in convincing the MBTA to allow a non-profit to lease an unused MBTA rail bed for the first time ever. We at Squannacook Greenways want to express our deepest appreciation to this great organization that does so much to make all our lives better in north central Massachusetts.

June 2017 - First annual Family Day on the Rail Trail

Thanks to the over 65 participants (many in strollers!) who had a great time at the Family Day on the Squannacook River Rail Trail! And thanks to everyone who worked to make it special, including the Townsend Police Department, Nashoba Paddlers, Groton Turtle Conservation, and Rock and Roll Gymnastics.

Family Day

Family Day

Apr. 23, 2017 : Squannacook Greenways holds seconds annual rail trail clean up

On Saturday, April 29, 2016, Squannacook Greenways held its second annual Earth Day rail trail clean up. There was only about 1/3 of the trash amount we hauled out last year! Thank you trail users and abuttors who are helping us keep the trail clean for everyone's enjoyment!

Earth day clean up 2017

Our youngest volunteer.
Jan 1, 2017: Buy a brick sale raises over $17,000 with more than 130 bricks sold

The 2016 Buy a brick fundraiser ended on Dec 31, 2016, and raised over $17,000 with more than 130 bricks sold. Thanks so much to everyone who was able to help out with this fundraiser, which pushed our capital campaign over the halfway point!

Image of bricks sold  

Click the image above to see all the bricks donated.
Nov 5, 2016: Over 60 people enjoy a guided walk along the Squannacook River Rail Trail

On Nov 5, 2016, Squannacook Greenways, in conjuction with Freedom's Way National Heritage Area and the Townsend Historical Society, held a guided one way walk of the Squannacook River Rail Trail. We were thrilled when over 60 people turned up to enjoy the walk. Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to the Townsend Historical Society for offering walkers a tour of the Reed Homestead.

Walking the rail trail  Reed Homestead tour

Oct 22, 2016: Volunteers help mark the route of the Squannacook River Rail Trail

On a very rainy Saturday Oct. 22, 2016, a number of volunteers helped Squannacook Greenways put up green arrow trail markers along the Squannacook River Rail Trail. We hope these markers will encourage everyone to come out and walk the trail, and so see for yourselves that the stone dust trail will provide residents wanting to bike or walk from one part of town to another a safe alternative to the busy and dangerous Route 119.

Putting up trail markers  Putting up trail markers

Oct 1, 2016: Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program helps Squannacook Greenways

Squannacook Greenways is pleased to announce that received a gift of $69 from Hannaford Supermarket in Townsend, raised through their Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program in the month of September 2016. This gift is especially appreciated because Hannaford will be one of the many destinations easily reached from the Squannacook River Rail Trail!

Hannaford shopping bags

Aug 28, 2016: Benjamin Chidester of Townsend awarded Eagle; project was to help clear the Squannacook River Rail Trail

Benjamin Chidester of Townsend along with his twin brother Adam was recently awarded the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts. Benjamin's Eagle project involved organized a group of scouts to help clear a section of the Squannacook River Rail Trail near Depot Street in Townsend.

Trail near Depot Street  Bejamin Childester

Aug 28, 2016: Squannacook Greenways wins $6,100 grant from the DCR Recreational Trails grant

Squannacook Greenways is pleased to announce that they were awarded a $6,100 grant from the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Program in August 2016. This grant will help cover cost associated with engineering and permitting, and includes money for public signs teaching about turtle conservation. The Massachusetts Recreational Trails Program is jointly administered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board (MARTAB), and is one of the premier sources of funding for new trails in Massachusetts.

DCR logo

July 5, 2016: Squannacook Greenways wins $10,000 grant from Bruce J. Anderson Foundation

Squannacook Greenways is pleased to announce that they were awarded a $10,000 grant from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation. This grant will go directly toward the construction of the stone dust Squannacook River Rail Trail. With this $10,000 grant, the capital campaign has now raised more than $57,000, well more than a third of the way to our goal of $150,000.

Informed by intelligence, sensitivity, and the knowledge of many countries and cultures, Bruce J. Anderson was a serious and idealistic young man who cared deeply about the problems he saw around him. The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation was established in 1980 by Bruce's brothers and sisters to honor Bruce and support the causes he championed. Squannacook Greenways, with its goal of making life better and more active for all residents, but especially younger ones, is proud to have been chosen to receive this grant.

The Boston foundation logo

The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation is a supporting organization of the Boston Foundation.
July 11, 2016: First public trail walk

Group shot of rail trail walkers

Thanks to everyone who walked the rail trail in the face of impending rain!

Rail Trail walk

May 21, 2016: Volunteers clear last section of rail bed without a path

On Saturday, May 21, 2016, a group of board members and a few volunteers worked to clear the last section of the rail bed without a walking path next to it.

Trail clearing 2016

Pictured: Paul Sebring, John Barrett, Joan Wotkowicz, Mark Cram, and Gordon Row. Thanks also to volunteers Ed Tokarski, Mark Derome, and Jeff Dominick.
Apr. 23, 2016 : Squannacook Greenways holds first annual rail trail clean up

On Saturday, April 23, 2016, Squannacook Greenways held its first annual Earth Day rail trail clean up. Over 25 volunteers showed up and removed 75 bags of trash from the rail bed.

Earth day clean up 2016

Thanks to everyone who came up to help get the rail trail ready for the upcoming public walks.
Aug 21, 2015 : Town agrees to fund rail trail sidewalk design

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, the Townsend Board of Selectman unanimously voted to spend $27,000 to design and engineer a sidewalk from the Harbor Church to the lights on South Street. Read the full article here.

Image of path of new sidewalk

The sidewalk will extend the existing sidewalk from South Street to Harbor Church.
Mar 10, 2015 : Townsend Board of Selectman unanimously support moving ahead with sidewalk project

On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, the Townsend Board of Selectman unanimously supported moving ahead with the sidewalk project in Townsend Harbor to support the rail trail. This sidewalk is planned to run along the south side of Route 119 from South Road west to Harbor Church, a distance of about 800 feet. The town will be responsible for the design work, and the state for construction. It will be paid for by use of a small fraction of the $100,000 already appropriated for a larger sidewalk project. The plan is for the Squannacook River Rail Trail to return to the rail bed via the Harbor Church parking area.

Map of proposed sidewalk>

The sidewalk will extend from South Road to Harbor Church.
Jan 26, 2015 : Squannacook Greenways and MBTA sign lease, wins legal right to build and maintain rail trail

On Jan. 26, 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) signed the ninety-nine year lease with Squannacook Greenways, giving us the needed right to build and maintain this new rail trail in Townsend and Groton.

This is an exciting milestone! Signing the MBTA lease for the Greenville branch has been the focus of Squannacook Greenways since our founding in 2011. The MBTA owns this rail bed. Signing this lease with them gives us the legal right to move ahead with this exciting project. We know that a lot of work still lies ahead. Membership drives, fund raising, trail design, permitting and construction will all present their own unique challenges. However, the Squannacook Greenways board consider signing the MBTA lease the single most important step in the last eleven years. It opens the door for trail supporters to help construct a rail trail that our towns can enjoy and take pride in.

How did this happen?

Prior to January of last year, Squannacook Greenways was working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to sign the lease, and then have DCR sublease the rail bed to us. In late 2013, this plan ran into legal problems outside of DCR's control. At that point, the MBTA stepped forward with a proposal to put the right to sign the MBTA lease out for public auction.

Previously, only governmental organizations such as towns or DCR had signed rail trail leases with the MBTA. Putting the rail trail lease out for public bid was a new approach for the MBTA. We at Squannacook Greenways would like to thank the MBTA for taking an untried approach to allow this rail trail to move forward.

We would also like to thank some of our strongest, long-term advocates whose support encouraged the MBTA to take this step. First, we would like to acknowledge the ceaseless help we received from our state senators and state representative, Senator Flanagan, Senator Donoghue, and Representative Harrington. We would also like to thank the board of selectmen from Townsend and Groton for their letters of support.

Without the help of our two mentor non-profits, the Nashua River Watershed Association and Wachusett Greenways, we would never have been in a position to make this trail possible. The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts was also key, in that their $18,000 grant last year helped to convince the MBTA of our fiscal soundness. And finally we would like to thank DCR for all their help over the years, with special thanks to Tom LaRosa, DCR's general counsel, who always went way beyond the call of duty in trying to help us move forward with this rail trail.

What happens next?

Now that the lease is signed, things will really swing into motion. Squannacook Greenways will kick off a membership drive and a capital campaign. The $18,000 grant we received last year from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts gave us a great start toward the $150,000 needed to build this rail trail.

We will also start running and walking tours of the future trail. We will begin volunteer work days to clear parts of the trail that are do not need to go through the wetlands permitting process. We will also continue to submit grant applications for additional funding for trail construction. We are also planning to reach out to all abutters of the future rail trail. Finally we will start the permitting process in both Groton and Townsend.


In order to keep everyone in touch with all that will be going on, we'll send out our electronic newsletters and post the latest on Facebook and our website. Remember, this trail will not be built by a town committee or a state agency. It will be built by us - the people of Townsend and Groton.

MBTA lease

The signed MBTA lease.

Rail bed

The future rail trail.
Jun 19, 2013 : Squannacook Greenways wins $18,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts

Squannacook Greenways is proud to announce that we have been awarded an $18,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts to kickstart a fundraising drive for the construction of the Squannacook River Rail Trail. The planned Squannacook River Rail Trail will be a 3.7 mile stone dust rail trail on the existing MBTA rail bed, with a western end in Townsend center. It will travel east just south of Route 119, passing behind the Harbor Village Shopping Center, where it will parallel Townsend Road in Groton until it reaches the Bertozzi Wildlife area.

Unlike other rail trails in Massachusetts, the Squannacook River Rail Trail is not being built by a town or the state. The trail is instead being built by our local non-profit, Squannacook Greenways. All the money needed to build this trail will be raised by Squannacook Greenways. This is possible because we are building a stone dust rail trail, which is much less expensive to build and maintain than a paved trail. Our total budget for the 3.7 mile trail is between $150,000 and $200,000. For comparison, a paved trail in Massachusetts is estimated to cost about one million dollars a mile. Our trail will cost 1/20th of that per mile. With this generous grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, along with money given directly by our board, we are already at 15% of our goal, before we have even started external fundraising.

Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts logo

Thanks to The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts!
Mar 27, 2013 : MBTA demolishes dilapidated storage shed off Depot St in Townsend

The MBTA today demolished the long-decaying storage shed along Depot Street in Townsend. This will help make way for a larger parking area for the trail's terminus in Townsend.

Shed on Depot St before demolition

Shed on Depot St before demolition

MBTA shed being demolished

MBTA shed being demolished
Nov. 24, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways outlines plans for the road ahead

In the next few months, Squannacook Greenways' goal is to come to a final, detailed agreement with DCR. This agreement will spell out any steps we will still need to take before the actual lease is signed. One such step we have already agreed on is our purchasing environmental insurance, which will involve fundraising or grant writing on our part.

Once the agreement with DCR is in place, our group will move forward with two main goals - 1) funding our rail trail, and 2) completing the design and permitting stage. To fund our trail, we will be writing grants and doing fundraising. We will also have a membership drive.

Design and permitting will be another large undertaking. Permits are required at both the town and state level. Engineering design will be required at parking lots, where the trail transitions to a sidewalk, and in certain environmentally sensitive locations. The design phase will also include offers to meet with abutters to discuss individual concerns. Throughout this process of moving toward the day the trail opens, there will be many opportunities for you to help make this trail a reality. Stay tuned to this website or our facebook page for more updates in the near future!.

Read more in our November 2012 newsletter.

Squannacook Greenways Board of Directors

The focus for the Squannacook Greenways board is now turning toward design and permitting, along with funding our trail.
Oct. 23, 2012 : Townsend Board of Selectmen vote to give Squannacook Greenways a letter of support

On Tuesday, October 23rd, the Townsend Board of Selectmen voted to send a letter of support of the rail trail project to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Much of the credit for that goes to the many supporters who turned out to speak up for us, and we all want to express our sincere thanks to each and every one of you! We would also like to thank the Townsend Board of Selectmen for putting on this public forum, and for voting to support us. For more details, see the Townsend Times article.

Thanks are due also to the Groton Board of Selectmen, who also sent DCR Commission Lambert their letter of support the same week. Thanks to Townsend and Groton, Squannacook Greenways is now in a position to move ahead with this project. Look for a detailed description of the path ahead in our November newsletter. If you are not subscribed to our newsletter, simply enter your email below. With your help, this rail trail project can keep moving forward!

The rail bed near Meetinghouse Road

The rail bed near Old Meetinghouse Road in Townsend.
Oct. 14, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways needs YOU at the October 23 Townsend Board of Selectmen meeting!

On Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 7 pm at Memorial Hall in Townsend, there will be a critical Board of Selectmen meeting that may decide the fate of the Squannacook River Rail Trail. At this meeting, the public is being invited to express their views. We understand everyone has busy lives, but if you believe having a rail trail would make life in our town better, this meeting is perhaps the most important chance to make your voice heard.

Read all the details in our October 2012 newsletter.

Biking on dangerous route 119

Please attend the Oct.23rd meeting and help give give our kids an alternative to riding their bikes on Route 119.
Sep 8, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways sends out its first newsletter - Sep 2012
Squannacook Greenways sends out our first newsletter, dated September 2012. In this issue, you will find the following articles:

If you would like to sign up to receive our newsletter in the future, please enter your email in the box to the right. We plan to send at most one email per month. You can also find out more by visiting us on facebook.

Newsletter icon

Our first newsletter
Aug 17, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways meets with the Townsend BOS to ask for agreement to build sidewalk

Members of Squannacook Greenways met with the Townsend Board of Selectmen on Aug. 14, 2012. See the section below for details. As described in the Townsend Times article, the board delayed a vote until the next meeting, when feedback from Police Chief Marshall should be available.

Aug 14, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways reaches agreement with DCR to proceed with Squannacook River Rail Trail

Squannacook Greenways is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to build the Squannacook River Rail Trail. Squannacook Greenways is following the vision for building this rail trail laid out by the official Townsend and Groton town committees. That vision was that a non-profit should build the rail trail, following the successful example of Wachusett Greenways and the Mass Central Rail Trail.

The rail bed in Townsend and Groton is owned by the MBTA, and in order to build the rail trail, a governmental body needs to sign the MBTA lease. This lease requires the governmental entity that signs it to accept responsibility for environmental issues. Both Townsend and Groton have expressed reservations about accepting that liability, and so Squannacook Greenways turned to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for help.

Squannacook Greenways proposed that DCR sign the MBTA lease, and that Squannacook Greenways would sign a memorandum of agreement with DCR giving Squannacook Greenways sole responsibility for construction and maintenance of the rail trail. Squannacook Greenways has been working with DCR for the past year to verify our commitment to this project. We have written a detailed business plan, raised over $10,000 from our Board of Directors alone, and gathered numerous letters of support.

On May 24, 2012, members of the Squannacook Greenways board met with DCR Commissioner Lambert and members of his staff, and reached a conditional verbal agreement to move ahead with the plan described above. Commissioner Lambert requested that Squannacook Greenways buy environmental insurance and name DCR as an additional insured. He also asked that both the towns of Groton and Townsend put in writing those ways in which they have already agreed to assist in the building of the rail trail.

For Townsend, we are asking the Board of Selectmen to write a letter committing the town to pursue building approximately 900 feet of sidewalk in the Townsend Harbor area. Building this sidewalk was a key recommendation in the town rail trail committee's report, because it removed a number of serious concerns in that area. The town would only need to do the sidewalk design, funding for which has already been approved in a previous town meeting. In addition, we would like Townsend to commit to providing standard police support for the trail.

It is important to note that because Squannacook Greenways will be building and maintaining the rail trail, the towns have no environmental liability for the trail, and have no commitment to spending any town funds to support this trail.

Every member of the Squannacook Greenways Board would like to thank Commissioner Lambert for supporting us and making this trail possible. In an era of tight budgets, he has found a ground-breaking way to use public-private partnerships to get more done for the people of our state while using fewer resources. Once the agreement with DCR is complete, Squannacook Greenways is planning on launching membership and fundraising drives. We will also be starting trail walks. After permits have been granted, we will be holding volunteer days to start work on the trail. We look forward to working together as a community to bring this trail to reality.

Squannacook Greenways logo

Squannacook Greenways logo
Feb 14, 2012 : Squannacook Greenways is now an official 501(c)(3)

Squannacook Greenways, Inc. has received notification from the IRS that we are now an official 501(c)(3) non-profit. This means that all donations to Squannacook Greenways are fully tax deductible.

Sep 14, 2011 : Squannacook Greenways, Inc. is incorporated

Squannacook Greenways, Inc, is incorporated as a non-profit. The purpose of our organization is to build the Squannacook River Rail Trail following in the model of the Wachusett Greenways.

Squannacook Greenways Board of Directors

Squannacook Greenways Board of Directors. Front row left to right: Joan Wotkowicz, Steve Meehan, Bruce Easom, Robert Hargraves. Rear: Alfred Gadway, Bill Rideout, Peter Cunningham, Pete Carson, Mark Cram. Not pictured: Ray Jackson, Rollin Willis
Jul 1, 2011 : Pan Am Railways planning to abandon the entire Greenville spur

Pan Am Railways has signaled its intention to abandon the entire Greenville spur - opening the possibility of the Squannacook River Rail Trail extending all the way to Ayer center and intersecting with the Nashua River Rail Trail. The last customer for that spur, PolyOne of Ayer, has ceased railroad operations from the Ayer facility.

Map showing possible future connection with Nashua River Rail Trail and MBTA.

Map showing possible future connection with Nashua River Rail Trail and MBTA.
Feb 11, 2015 : Townsend and Groton present findings to BOS - suggest non-profit building stone dust trail

The Townsend and Groton rail trail committees each presented the results of their joint interim report to their respective Boards of Selectmen. This report discussed a new idea for building the Squannacook River Rail Trail. The idea is closely based on the example of Wachusett Greenways, a non-profit group that built the stonedust Mass Central Rail Trail. The committees recommended that a non-profit that is presently forming build and maintain the rail trail, freeing the towns from any fiscal responsibility or liability. This new non-profit is planned to be called Squannacook Greenways.

The report also pointed out that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) would play a key role in making this possible. Right now the MBTA owns the rail bed, and is offering a lease for one dollar for the town or state agency that would accept environmental liability. This liability worried both towns of Townsend and Groton. Right now, Squannacook Greenways is discussing the possibility that DCR would sign that lease, but then allow Squannacook Greenways to build and maintain the trail. This public/private partnership would leverage the resources of DCR to allow Squannacook Greenways to build the trail without burdening DCR with any direct costs.

In the meeting with the Townsend Board of Selectmen on Feb. 1, 2011, two routing options were also discussed. As detailed in the engineering study, the rail trail could either follow the existing rail bed in the Townsend Harbor area behind the Reed Homestead, or could go along a sidewalk to be built between the Shepherds' business and the Harbor Church parking lot. For reasons detailed in the joint interim report, the committee unanimously recommended the sidewalk route. Andy Sheehan noted that the state had offered to build a sidewalk along Route 119 if the town paid for the design, and that the town had already allocated $100,000 for that design. That $100,000 was originally intended to design a sidewalk from North Middlesex Regional High School to Townsend center, but that amount was found to be far too little, and so had not been spent. The Townsend Selectmen indicated support for pursuing the possibility of using that design money for this small section of sidewalk.

Aug 12, 2010 : Groton and Townsend committees meet with Iron Horse Preservation Society

Members of the Townsend and Groton rail trail committees met with Ryan Hattrup of the Iron Horse Preservation Society (www.ironhorsepreservation.org). This non-profit is involved with numerous stone dust rail trail projects in our area, and is in the process of completing a trail in Danvers. Their goal is to maximize value from the existing track infrastructure, and tries to build all or part of the stone dust trail based on that alone. They have build a strong working relationship with the MBTA/Transit Realty, and both committees felt that further investigation was very worthwhile.

Iron Horse at work

Iron Horse Preservation at work in Danvers.
Apr 28, 2010 : Committee members tour rail trail built by Wachusett Greenways

Members of the Townsend and Groton rail trail committees took a tour of the Mass Central Rail Trail build by Wachusett Greenways with founding member Ed Yaglou. This section of the Mass Central Rail Trail is a stone dust trail built by a volunteer group with grants, but without federal highway funding. The committee are considering a similar approach for the Squannacook River Rail Trail. Construction and maintenance issues were discussed. See pictures of the tour.

Wachusetts Greenway

The stone dust Mass Central Rail Trail
Sep 2 , 2009 : Groton and Townsend submit joint rail trail Project Need Form to MassHighway

The towns of Groton and Townsend submitted a joint Project Need Form to MassHighway for the Squannacook River Rail Trail. This Project Need Form will trigger a formal study of the project by MassHighway, and will help the Groton and Townsend town committees further research the financial feasibility of the rail trail. Submission of this document was approved by the Board of Selectmen in both towns.

June 16, 2009 : Townsend Board of Selectmen support submission of Project Need Form

The Townsend Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to support a joint submission with Groton of a Project Need Form for the Squannacook River Rail Trail. This Project Need Form is submitted to MassHighway, and indicates official interest in a project. Submission of this form will allow MassHighway and the Montachusetts Regional Planning Commission to analyze this project in greater detail, but does not commit the town to building the trail. This analysis will aid our committee in further investigating potential funding sources for the construction of this trail.

Nov. 10, 2008 : Members of Townsend rail trail funding committee chosen

The Townsend Board of Selectmen have appointed the following members to the Squannacook River Rail Trail Funding Exploration Committee:

At their first meeting on Nov. 10, 2008, Hirk Fortin was elected chairman, and Bill Rideout was elected secretary. The next meeting will be Nov. 20, 2008 at 7 pm in Memorial Hall in Townsend, and will be a joint meeting with the Groton rail trail committee.

Oct. 24 , 2008 : Congresswoman Tsongas walks the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail

Congresswoman Tsongas tours the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail with Steve Meehan and Bill Rideout from Townsend, Peter Cunningham from Groton, Nashua River Watershed Association representatives Al Futterman, Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell and Marion Stoddard, and her regional coordinator Jane Adams. See more pictures here.

Congresswoman Tsongas tours the proposed rail trail

Steve Meehan, Congresswoman Tsongas, and Peter Cunningham discuss the rail trail.
Sep 23, 2008: Townsend Board of Selectmen forming ad-hoc committee to study rail trail funding issues

The Townsend Board of Selectmen voted to form an ad-hoc committee to study funding issues involving the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail. The Groton Board of Selectmen have also refocused Groton's rail trail committee to study financing issues. Of central interest to both committees will be whether 100% funding is possible though federal and state funding. The Townsend committee will have five members, and the Townsend Board of Selectmen decided to wait ten days before selecting committee members.

Cartoon

Aug 20, 2008: MBTA replaces culvert behind Harbor Village; restricts access to rail bed

The MBTA replaced a failing culvert behind Harbor Village in Townsend. Flooding due to this culvert problem had affected a number of residents in the area. As part of the project, the MBTA put up the pictured No Trespassing sign and blocked through access on the rail bed. This reinforces the point that the only way to ensure public access to this corridor is to convert it to a rail trail.

No trespassing sign behind Harbor Village

No trespassing sign behind Harbor Village
Aug. 13, 2008: FST releases final assessment report on the Squannacook River Rail Trail

FST released the final version of its environmental and engineering assessment (20 MB PDF). Since 2002 the SRRT Committee has remained committed to an exploration of the feasibility of a rails-to-trails conversion in Townsend.  We completed our own study in 2006 and came to an initial conclusion that this was a viable project.  The results of this professional study, performed by recreational trail experts Fay, Spofford and Thorndike (FST) confirm the conclusion that this project is feasible.

June 12, 2008: Over 150 people attend FST public meeting

Over 150 people attended the FST public meeting on June 12, 2008 at North Middlesex Regional High School in Townsend. A video of FST's presentation is available here.

FST meeting

FST public meeting on June 12, 2008
June 5, 2008: FST releases draft assessment of Squannacook River Rail Trail in preparation for June 12th meeting

In preparation for the public meeting to be held Thursday June 12, 2008 at 7 pm at the NMRHS, the engineering firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike (FST) released a draft environmental and engineering assessment (13 MB PDF). They also made available a detailed series of maps in a separate appendix (4 MB PDF). Document not yet included in draft report are the Townsend Conservation Commission comments and Townsend Historical Society comments.

Everyone from Townsend and Groton interested in learning about this project is invited to attend. There will be a question and comment period following FST's presentation.

May 13, 2008: MBTA to rebuild culvert causing flooding near Groton/Townsend line

The MBTA will soon begin a project to rebuild a failing culvert located behind the Harbor Village Shopping Center. This culvert has caused flooding in the past few years in the area of the Groton/Townsend line. The rail bed is still passable, with red plastic fencing marking the future work area. The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee helped to facilitate a meeting between Townsend and MBTA officials to kick this project off.

Culvert near Harbor Village

Culvert near Harbor Village
April 24, 2008 : Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee wins $1000 NEGEF grant

The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee has been awarded a grant of $1,000 from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund (NEGEF). The funds from this grant will be used to pay for an informational mailing to Townsend households about the upcoming public meeting to be held by Fay Spofford & Thorndike (FST).

FST is the firm preparing a preliminary environmental and engineering study on the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail. This study is addressing many issues relevant to this rail trail, including potential environmental and business impact, parking and road crossings, safety, and abutter concerns. These public meetings will be held in both Townsend and Groton in the late spring or early summer. At these meetings FST will be presenting their findings to date, gathering public feedback, and discussing possible next steps. The grant from NEGEF will ensure greater public participation in this process.

This grant is the second the Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee has received in as many years. It follows last year’s award of $20,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to help pay for the preliminary environmental and engineering study. Additionally, the Nashua River Watershed Association has received support from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation to enable its work on this project.

NEGEF logo

NEGEF logo
Mar. 8, 2008 : Preliminary environmental and engineering study by Fay Spofford & Thorndike well underway

The engineering firm of Fay Spofford & Thorndike (FST) is moving forward with the preliminary environmental and engineering study of the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail in Townsend and Groton. John Hendrickson is the project manager and Jen Shemowat is the project engineer, and a number of coordination meetings have already been held. FST has begun contacting various parties whose input is needed for this study. Public meetings on the study in Groton and Townsend are expected in late spring or early summer.

FST examines a culvert along the proposed rail trail

John Hendrickson from FST examines a culvert along the proposed rail trail
Nov. 29, 2007: Townsend and Groton both choose Fay Spofford & Thorndike for the upcoming preliminary environmental and engineering study

The Town of Groton and the Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee recently sent out separate but coordinated requests for proposals for each town's portion of the study. After carefully reviewing the various proposals, both groups selected the engineering firm of Fay, Spofford & Thorndike.  They are one of the leaders in this field, and designed both the Nashua River Rail Trail and the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail in Nashua.  They have also recently completed similar rail trail studies in the towns of Acton, Concord, Sudbury, Wakefield, Lynnfield, and Georgetown.

An important part of the study will be public meetings led by Fay, Spofford & Thorndike to discuss their findings.  These meetings will be held in 2008 in both Townsend and Groton, and everyone interested in this proposed rail trail is encouraged to attend. 

FST logo

Fay Spofford & Thorndike logo
Nov. 13, 2007: Groton establishes official committee to study the potential Squannacook River Rail Trail

The Groton Board of Selectmen established an official town committee to plan and implement the establishment of the Groton section of the Squannacook River Rail Trail.

Groton logo

Town of Groton logo
Oct. 29, 2007: Groton town meeting unanimously approves funding for preliminary environmental and engineering study

Groton town meeting unanimously approves funding for preliminary environmental and engineering study

Groton voters at the fall special town meeting unanimously approved an expenditure of $10,000 for a preliminary environmental and engineering study of the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail in Groton. These funds were appropriated from the Community Preservation Fiscal Year 2008 budget reserve. Funding for this study has now been secured for both the Townsend and Groton sections of this proposed rail trail.

Trail in Groton

The rail bed in Groton.
Oct 18, 2007: Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee wins $20,000 grant from DCR to pay for preliminary engineering study in Townsend

The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee is proud to announce that it has been awarded a grant of $20,000 from the Recreational Trails Grants Program of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The funds from the DCR grant will be used to pay for Townsend's portion of the project’s next step: a preliminary environmental and engineering study by a professional engineering firm.

This professional environmental and engineering study will address many issues, including potential environmental impact, parking and road crossings, safety, business impact, and abutter concerns.

The Town of Groton is planning a similar preliminary environmental and engineering study for the proposed 0.9 miles of the Squannacook River Rail Trail in Groton. Funding for the Groton portion of this study will be on the agenda at the Groton Special Town Meeting on Oct. 22, 2007.

An important part of the process will be public meetings led by the engineering firms to discuss their findings. These meetings will be held in 2008 in both Townsend and Groton, and everyone interested in this proposed rail trail is encouraged to attend. Stay tuned to this site for the dates!

The Townsend and Groton versions of the Request for Proposals for this study were sent out in September 2007, and are available on our Documents page. An electronic version of the engineering report will be available here also when it is complete.

DCR logo

Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation logo
Oct. 17, 2007: Members of the Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee attend Moving Together conference in Boston

Three members of the Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee, Steve Meehan, Bill Rideout, and Al Futterman, attended the Moving Together conference on Oct. 17, 2007 in Boston.  This yearly conference brings together people from across the Commonwealth working to improve bicycling and walking conditions locally, regionally, and statewide. The meeting was an excellent chance for our group to speak with many key people involved with rail trails in Massachusetts, including representatives from MassHighway and the Department of Recreation and Conservation, and follow rail trail advocates.

Secretary of Transportation Cohen

Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee chairman Steve Meehan discusses the project with Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen
Sep. 6, 2007: SRRT Committee/Town of Groton send out Requests for Quotations for upcoming preliminary engineering study

Today, the Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee and the Town of Groton concurrently released companion Requests for Quotations for the upcoming rail trail preliminary engineering study.   This preliminary environmental and engineering study of the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail will serve two important purposes: 1) to address certain issues important to the Townsend's and Groton's decision as to whether to approve this project or not, and 2) to satisfy Mass Highway of project feasibility before the earmarked federal funds can be released.  The documents page contains pdf versions of the Townsend and Groton Requests for Quotations.

This Request for Quotation is contingent upon funding. The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee will be covering the cost of the study in Townsend, and we are very optimistic about receiving a grant in the near future to cover the cost.  The town of Groton will be putting a request for funding before the town at the fall 2007 town meeting. Responses to both the Townsend and Groton RFQs are due on October 15, 2007

July 1, 2007: The Squannacook River Rail Trail now planned for both Townsend and Groton

The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee has expanded its plans for the rail trail to include a 0.9 mile section in Groton.  The trail is now planned to run from Depot Street in the center of Townsend to the Bertozzi Wildlife Management Area on Townsend Road in Groton, for a total of 3.7 miles.  See the map for details.

May 24, 2007: Trail walk with Mass Highway

On Thursday, May 24th, members of the Squannacook River Rail Trail committee walked the proposed rail trail with Arthur Frost and Sarah Bradbury from MassHighway.   During our trail walk, Arthur and Sarah made the comment that our trail had the fewest engineering challenges of any they had recently walked.   The only area they saw as challenging was the South Road crossing area, but their overall assessment was that our trail was remarkably free of serious problems. 

Squannacook River Rail Trail members walk the rail bed with Mass Highway
May 20, 2007: Trestle in Townsend center damaged by storm and blocked off by MBTA

The recent storm caused significant flooding in Townsend, leading to erosion-related damage to the trestle bridge in the center of Townsend.  The MBTA responded to this potential liability by putting up the unattractive fence shown in this picture, with a sign that reads, WARNING - DANGER - NO TRESPASSING

No Trespassing sign put up by the MBTA
April 28, 2007: Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee at Townsend's Earth Day

The Squannacook River Rail Trail Committee had a very well-attended booth at Townsend's Earth Day.  For more pictures, click here.

Earth day 2007
Jan. 8, 2007: Investigation of environmental liability continuing

The issue of environmental liability for a town signing the MBTA lease in order to build a rail trail remains under active investigation.  This has been an issue both in Townsend and state-wide in the past year.  Our committee feels that the environmental liability issue is one that needs to be taken seriously; however,  we believe it is one for which we will eventually find a satisfactory solution.

Jun. 9, 2006: Townsend Board of Selectmen request draft lease from MBTA

The Townsend Board of Selectmen decide to request a copy of the draft rail bed lease from the MBTA.  This is a non-binding step toward signing the lease, but it does officially notify the MBTA that the town is considering a rails-to-trails conversion.

May 10, 2006: Townsend votes 1021-259 to support pursuing the rail trail

Townsend voters overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal supporting the Squannacook River Rail Trail.  A referendum asking voters if they want the town to pursue the project passed by 1,021-to-259 margin, as nearly 80 percent of voters approved the idea. This vote was non-binding, and the final vote to decide whether to commit to this project will come only after a preliminary engineering study is complete.

Rail trail vote signs
Jun. 29, 2005: Earmarked funds for rail trails, including the Squannacook River Rail Trail, in latest federal highway bill

Congressman John W. Olver announced that the latest federal highway bill contained 4 million dollar for four rail trails in his district, including the Squannacook River Rail Trail.