Bikeway Extension May Conflict with Riverfront, Wetland Protections

Low lying wetland alongside the Reformatory Branch trail freezes during cold weather

According to Conservation Commission Chair Tim Gray, the Town is thinking of re-routing the proposed Minuteman Bikeway Extension—the so-called Reformatory Branch trail—so that it more closely follows Elm Brook.

“There’s almost all 25-foot [wetland] buffer [zone] through there,” Gray said. “They don’t just want to put a trail; they want to put a paved bike path there.”

Much of the pathway, according to Elizabeth Bagdonas, would be in so-called “riverfront” area, within the 25-foot buffer zone, or in the flood plain— all areas that fall under Conservation Commission jurisdiction.

Bagdonas stated that protection of natural resources— wetland, open spaces, watershed resources—supersedes passive recreation in hierarchy of importance.

“When you buy a piece of conservation land under Chapter 40, the primary purpose of that land is to provide its natural resource benefits,” Bagdonas explained. “Passive recreation is something that can happen, so long as it’s not in conflict with that. You come to the question of what are we supposed to be doing in these conservation lands? I mean, how wide are those [bike paths] supposed to be?”

“The bike paths are supposed to be twelve feet wide, paved, and fenced in on both sides,” said Commission member Andreas Uthoff.

“There’s standing water on both sides [of the bike trail near Railroad Avenue], said Gray. “It’s wetland for at least the first quarter of a mile.” Uthoff, too, expressed disbelief that the design plan could be approved because most of it would be within wetlands or within the buffer zone.

Design funds for the bikeway extension, coming from Community Preservation, were approved at a previous Annual Town Meeting. If the process moves ahead as originally conceived by the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Town would follow the design with an application to the State to fund construction. The vision is for the finished trail to becomepart of the statewide, legally-approved bike trail system.

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9 years ago

Can it be a boardwalk well above grade for critical sections?

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