Lane School Students Try New Route to School

Walking to Lane School along the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail with Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Kinney

 

On May 12, 1877, formal construction began on the eight-mile narrow-gauge railroad link between Bedford Depot and Billerica Center, with a stop at the Bedford Springs resort on Fawn Lake.

On May 12, 2021, the leaders of Lt. Job Lane School joined about 20 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at 8 a.m., and they walked a stretch of that historic route on their way to another day of learning.

Coincidence? What do you think?

The route, now part of the Bay Circuit trail network, is being promoted to relieve vehicular traffic congestion in the school’s neighborhood streets at dropoff and pickup time.

The problem has been exacerbated by the recent return to full-time school, as many families prefer to drive their children to and from Lane rather than have them ride the school buses. School officials have written to parents about the buses as a safe environment.

One concept introduced last month was to use the empty Middlesex Community College parking lot on Springs Road, just north of the VA Hospital, as a satellite dropoff and pickup place. The vast asphalt area is contiguous to the narrow-gauge trail, a few minutes’ walk or bike ride northbound to the school.

Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman informed the School Committee at its virtual meeting Tuesday that the option began officially Monday. “It allows the parents the opportunity to drop off earlier, or if they don’t want to wait in line.”

This morning Ackerman and Assistant Principal Keith Kinney joined the 20 or so students for a guided walk, including a little history lesson about what once was a railroad bed. Ackerman said they hope to be part of the entourage every Wednesday, “and we’re trying to add one afternoon.”

“The idea is to get kids comfortable with the path, as well as help parents be aware of this alternative,” he said.

Ackerman told the School Committee that the narrow-gauge option is a good example of intergovernmental collaboration, involving not only Lane School and the college, but also the Police and Public Works Departments and “a number of town groups – rail trail people, safe-routes-to-school people – really helped to make this a reality.”

The Board of Health also was involved in the issue at its meeting Monday. Heidi Porter, Health and Human Services Department director, advised the board that she is working to arrange for “a more defined pedestrian/bike area” between Fawn Lake and Lane School.

The goal is for cyclists and walkers to continue north, crossing Sweetwater Avenue at the less-traveled area near Fawn Lake, and then accessing the school property on an improved path. The current link, Porter said, is “treacherous, Porter said. “The grade is so steep right now.” The link could be improved with some switchbacks, she said, and “the DPW is spearheading that one.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

 


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