Letter to the Editor: Minuteman Extension Supporters Love Trees

~Submitted by Mark Bailey

We like trees AND fewer car trips.

Supporters of the Minuteman Extension are proud to also be tree lovers. We care deeply about the impact climate change is having on our community and our planet and are dedicated to taking active measures to mitigate the worst of the effects. Town meeting voters deserve clear facts to make an informed decision. Key points for informed voters to consider include:

Old growth trees and “significant” trees of unique value to the community will not be affected by the project

  • The clearing along the existing Reformatory Branch Trail simply pushes back the forest and brush alongside the existing cleared trail. This is not a 30’ or wider swath that is being clear cut through an existing forest.
  • Replacement trees (Maple, Birch, Sweetgum, White Pine, Arborvitae, Dogwood, Oak, and Linden) have been carefully selected to thrive in an evolving climate and will serve as food sources and habitat for the wildlife that is living here now

The boundaries in the tree removal plans and estimate of acreage to be cleared reflect work that is professional, thorough, and transparent. The dedicated town employees who will be supervising the work and signing off on each tree removed are our neighbors, who care as much about the town as any citizen.

The Minuteman Extension project is a clear win for our climate. Not only does it make a beloved town resource more inclusive and accessible to current and budding nature lovers, it will also result in measurable reductions in commuter trips. A recent study describes economic, health, transportation, environmental, safety, accessibility, and equity impacts of shared-use paths. One key Environmental finding is that users on the existing Minuteman path substituted 75,000 active transportation trips for one-way motor vehicle commuter trips during the 4-month study period. This led to measurable reductions in the social costs of greenhouse and other emissions. The study is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/masstrails-shared-use-path-benefits-primer/download

Residents interested in understanding the actual impact of the project may now visit Lavender Lane, where trees and ground have been marked to note the limits of the area to be cleared. Also, DPW has published a new version of the tree plan that more clearly highlights the difference between the current and proposed tree lines.

Residents signing this letter: Mark Bailey, Laura Bergsten, Heather Black, Derek Blackburn, Sarah Blackman, Renu Bostwick, Jessica Brommelhoff, Leah Devereaux, Corinne Doud, Bob Doud, Patricia Fabian, Bob Fagan, Laurie Gleason, Terry Gleason, Sandra Hackman,  Susan Harris, Rebecca Hazelton, Andrew Henderson, Barbara Hitchcock, Michelle Kahan, Kathleen Kass, Jim Katz, John McLain, Sabrina McClain, Rebecca Neale, Ken Prescott, Rich Razumny, Iona Ribaud, Adam Ribaudo, Lucas Seibert, Scot Shaw, Jan van Steenwijk, Moriah Tumbleson-Shaw, Mariana Winnett


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Mike Merrick
Mike Merrick
1 day ago

There is a total lack of trust in you Mark. When you are on a recorded zoom bragging about how you “goaded” Concord into supporting this and you plan to “goad” Billerica into the project. To all residents of Bedford- they dont want to stop with the trails in west Bedford, they also want to extend paving past Fawn Lake to Billerica.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsYlkGQD7oo&t=2960s

Mark Bailey
Mark Bailey
12 hours ago
Reply to  Mike Merrick

Our design was revised to back off from the Concord line, and it is Billerica who is goading us by planning to pave NGT to the Bedford line.

Mike Barnes
Mike Barnes
10 days ago

I visited both booths on Bedford day so I could learn and understand both arguments. What I leaned is that the town is attempting to take land by eminent domain, the amount or trees being removed is more than what is stated in the above link, I also didn’t realize that Arlington is looking to install lights to combat the increased crime, wildlife will be impacted. The pro pavers main statement is more people will commute to work and disable people will use the path if it’s paved. I feel the latter will benefit less than 10 people so therefore I will vote against this project.

John McClain
John McClain
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Barnes

I know 10 people the project would benefit, and I am relatively introverted, so don’t know that many people.

As for the amount of trees, why can’t we believe the Bedford DPW’s assessment?

Patty Dahlgren
Patty Dahlgren
10 days ago

Im sorry but I don’t agree. The town voted AGAINST this. The Board decided they didn’t like the vote and apparently we the people didn’t ‘understand’ what we voted against and now the board has taken it up as an initiative. I will never ever vote for this because I do not like the precedent this sets or the message it sends to residents who elected the board. What’s next if the the board doesn’t like the vote? I live in a democracy and the people have spoken. At least I used to.

Catherine Van Praagh
Catherine Van Praagh
9 days ago
Reply to  Patty Dahlgren

In reality, the majority of the town voted for this. Repeatedly. Over ten years. The board knows- as do we all- that this loss will scrap plans to finally make Railroad Ave, a primary route to the Middle School and playing fields, safe for bike and pedestrian travel, along with losing millions of dollars of funding from the state, which we will not get back. I am glad to see we aren’t throwing out a decades worth of work on the part of town staff and volunteers based on a minority opinion.

Last edited 9 days ago by Catherine Van Praagh
Leanne Kearny
Leanne Kearny
9 days ago

“The majority of the town voted for this. Repeatedly.” That is not true. the majority of the town didn’t vote. And, the plan was not up for vote in its entirety until the last town meeting. Maybe you are referring to the majority vote vs 2/3 vote required for eminent domain. I urge readers to think about the significance of the town taking land from property owners. This plan might not be in your back yard – this time. The land taking may align with one of your life-long passions like cycling or getting cars off the road – this time. But what about next time, when government wants to take land for something that you don’t agree with? You are protected by the fact that it won’t happen easily. The 2/3 vote is in place to protect all of us.

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago

Leaving the pro/con path improvement arguments aside for a bit:

The board knows- as do we all- that this loss will scrap plans to finally make Railroad Ave, a primary route to the Middle School and playing fields, safe for bike and pedestrian travel

How does not fixing the path make it impossible to make Railroad Ave to become “a primary route to the Middle School and playing fields, safe for bike and pedestrian travel”?

The town build sidewalks on the street I live on and the street behind us a few years back and it just happened. I would argue it wasn’t really *needed* but I’m not complaining they did it. But the town did not need to tie it in with another decade + long project to get it done. The town could afford side walks for us, why not on a road where kids use a lot? If anything they should have done the side walk there first and left our 2 streets alone since we did not need it.

Tom Kenny
Tom Kenny
13 days ago

Short version of this letter: “If you don’t support paving the path, you’re against inclusion, accessibility, and the environment.” This is a thinly-veiled gambit to scare the critics of the plan into silence.

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago
Reply to  Tom Kenny

People don’t like when you state the obvious. I’ve said multiple times around here that they all make it sound like if the path is not fixed that all these people will be locked in their houses with nowhere else to go.

When I want to use the unpaved path, I go across town because near me it is paved. Are these people not able to reach the path at all somehow? There is plenty of parking, including handicapped spaces in the Depot Park where the paved portion ends. They can use the path from there all the way to Boston if they wish to do so.

Deborah McKenna
Deborah McKenna
14 days ago

Mark, your letter thank you for the pointer to Lavender La! We’re going to check it out today.

Tim Riggins
Tim Riggins
15 days ago

If anything needs to be paved it’s the sidewalks on great road. It’s a major disservice to the folks at the VA and those with mobility issues.

John McClain
John McClain
14 days ago
Reply to  Tim Riggins

It would be good to fix the sidewalks on Great Road (though I gather the fact this is a state road makes that more difficult), but keeping the town from buying the Reformatory Branch Trail right-of-way will not free up money that can then be used to improve sidewalks. Community Preservation Act funds can’t be used for sidewalk improvements.

Rejecting the purchase of the Reformatory Branch Trail right-of-way will end up costing the town over $3 million, which will make it harder to fund other improvements around town (like sidewalks).

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago
Reply to  John McClain

Give priority to what *needs* to be done. Nice to haves can always be done later. But that’s just how my head works.

Amy Kelly
Amy Kelly
10 days ago
Reply to  Tim Riggins

One does not preclude the other.

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago
Reply to  Amy Kelly

No! But how great would it be to get 11 million free from the state to do it where it’s needed the most for quite some time now?

Mike Merrick
Mike Merrick
15 days ago

What is causing frustration in this town is the fact that this project was voted DOWN earlier in the year. If this project was voted to go forward and a group of citizens wanted it back on the ballet for a “revote”, my guess is the leaders in this town would say we had our chance and the vote stands….but not when it doesnt work out in their favor.

John McClain
John McClain
13 days ago
Reply to  Mike Merrick

Voted down, but a significant majority voted for. And there is a decades long record of other votes in favor of the project. Regardless, this won’t be the first article to come to back in front of TM (accessory dwelling units and the playing fields come to mind)

Mike Merrick
Mike Merrick
1 day ago
Reply to  John McClain

Voted down. Doesnt matter how many voted for….more voted against. Thats how a democracy works…doesnt matter the track record.

John McClain
John McClain
17 hours ago
Reply to  Mike Merrick

Actually a majority voted for the authorization, so fewer voted against the authorization than voted for.

Tim Bennett
Tim Bennett
12 days ago
Reply to  Mike Merrick

If this project were voted to go forward, a commitment would be made with the MBTA, where at least 90% of the funding is coming from. Additionally, the budget would be allocated, and likely at least partially spent during the time between the next town meeting.
Comparing breaking this commitment and the budgetary issues it would incur to a measure getting increased support and awareness over time is not a fair comparison because of the lopsided nature of the consequences.

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bennett

The same MBTA that cut services to town because it was too expensive to keep service as it used to be in Bedford because there was not enough need for their services in town as before? Because if I needed to commute to Boston on Sunday, I can’t. There hasn’t been bus service between Bedford and Alewife for years now.

Same MBTA that cuts 6 more stops in Bedford as recent as 2017 (I dont’ recall if they ended up doing it or not)? https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2017/04/mbta-may-eliminate-six-bedford-bus-stops/

We’re trying to get multi family homes in town under another MBTA effort Perhaps the path is MBTA’s way of telling us “Oh, you don’t need more service from us! Look you have and entire paved bike path you can pedal on!”

Tim Bennett
Tim Bennett
16 days ago

I feel as though there is a distinction to be made between conservationists and environmentalists. Conservationists are focused on preserving existing resources, even at the cost of more severe ramifications down the line. Environmentalists take a more forward-thinking view, which I feel is necessary given the climate challenges we now face. I hope that residents of this town can learn to differentiate between those who truly care about Bedford’s future and those who hide behind wanting to preserve it’s past.

Mallory Keating
Mallory Keating
15 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bennett

Yes! The conservationist is admirable but lacks the magical power to see into the future that has been bestowed upon environmentalists. Despite the fact that bikers already use the trail in significant numbers, our powers indicate that commuters will spring forth unto the newly paved trail and heal the wounds of the cross-cutting for generations to come. We pity those whose vision is clouded by a misguided appreciation of a quiet nature walk.

Larry Dallas
Larry Dallas
13 days ago

Well said Mallory! It’s a sad state of affairs that the cross country could be losing their trail for meets and practices. What most don’t realize is most new bikes sold now are electric. Electric bikes can top speeds of 30mph. I’m actually thinking of getting one if this passes to zip along on the new super speedway.

John McClain
John McClain
13 days ago
Reply to  Larry Dallas

From the town’s FAQ on the project:

9. What will the cross-country teams do?
As the Reformatory Branch Trail is currently used as part of the Bedford schools cross-country route, DPW staff have been working with the Athletic Director and cross-country coaches to develop alternative courses. The Project has given them a new opportunity to collaborate with the DPW, Trails Committee, and Conservation Commission to develop a course in the Elm Brook Conservation Area, which is an improvement over the current route as it is entirely off-road. Without entering or crossing roadways, the course should be safer for those using it. The coaches hope this will be the new permanent course starting this fall (subject to Conservation Commission approval). A map of the new route will be posted to the Project website once it is available.”

As for electric bikes, I have neighbor who can’t really get around on foot anymore, but uses his electric bike on the Reformatory Branch Trail to go with his granddaughter to Chip-n-Farm — but he can only do that when the path isn’t too muddy. The path is an important resource, and as town we should make it accessible to all.

Stan Gable
Stan Gable
12 days ago
Reply to  John McClain

He should probably not skip leg day. If you’re a man and you can’t peddle an electric bike through mud then he really needs to hit the gym and work on his lower body.

John McClain
John McClain
10 days ago
Reply to  Stan Gable

I am sure he would prefer that if it was an option, unfortunately as we age some of us have to make accommodations to our new physical reality.

Tim Bennett
Tim Bennett
12 days ago
Reply to  Larry Dallas

I ran cross country for Bedford High School for a number of years. Before COVID, Triple E prevented us from going into the woods and using the trail for an entire season, both for meets and practices. And that season is fondly remembered by many of my teammates and I as the best season we had in high school! Besides, one thing you learn pretty quickly in cross country is that Bedford is full of scenic trails that branch off of the Reformatory Trail, which will be entirely unaffected, other than making access to them more straightforward. I hope this puts to rest some of your concerns, and I hope you enjoy that electric bike.

Tim Bennett
Tim Bennett
12 days ago

If only there were other trails that could be appreciated for their proximity to nature. Perhaps ones less arterial and even less traveled. Perhaps ones interspersed through nearly every neighborhood in Bedford, even branching off or running parallel to the rail trail in such a way as to ensure that everyone close to the Reformatory Trail still has access to even more serene views. Oh wait! The town has a website that lists exactly these!
https://www.bedfordma.gov/trails-committee/pages/bedford-trail-maps

Leanne Kearny
Leanne Kearny
9 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bennett

This is a common argument by the cyclists and one that Bedford residents should pay close attention to. To paraphrase: “Why don’t you go elsewhere to enjoy a peaceful walk?” Dear cyclists, you don’t own the land. Why don’t YOU go elsewhere? Think of the audacity of telling someone to get lost when you don’t own the land. I think this speaks volumes about the we-love-trees-but-love-cycling-more crowd.

Tim Bennett
Tim Bennett
9 days ago
Reply to  Leanne Kearny

Cyclists have access to far less terrain than walkers (except those with mobility issues, who would be helped by a path). Additionally, many cyclists are commuters seeking a green way to get to work. They do not have the luxury to be able to go on any of Bedford’s wonderful trails in order to accomplish this. Even ignoring this, your argument applies equally to those complaining about cyclists moving quickly on a bike path. Think of the audacity of telling someone to get lost when you don’t own the land. I think this speaks volumes about the we-love-walks-but-hate-cycling-more crowd.

John McClain
John McClain
8 days ago
Reply to  Leanne Kearny

People on both sides of this question have made the argument “why don’t you use some other path.” The goal is to create a multi-use path, accessible to the broadest cross-section of residents possible. There are number of unique features of the RPRT that make it ideal for such a shared use path.

Sandra’s letter from a few weeks ago is an elegant expression of this idea: https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2022/08/letter-to-the-editor-minuteman-extension-would-be-a-sheer-delight/

John Bender
John Bender
8 days ago
Reply to  John McClain

John do you think it right the town can take peoples land by eminent domain ? I personally don’t care about the path but taking land if the owner isn’t willing to sell is what has me voting no

McClain, John
McClain, John
8 days ago
Reply to  John Bender

I think using eminent domain to create public goods (v. creating an office park for a pharmaceutical company…) is sometimes justified.

In this particular case since we are generally talking narrow strips of land which owners didn’t know they owned, haven’t be paying taxes on, are separated from the rest of their property from fences and / or terrain features, and have decades long record of multiple different public uses — it seems especially justifiable.

John Bender
John Bender
8 days ago
Reply to  McClain, John

That’s false. Narrow strip ??? You should really take a look at the plans or talk to your neighbors I know of 1 resident who was offered 200k and they refused the offer. It’s much more than a strip. Your logic makes it sound like the Indian removal act of 1830 was justified

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
7 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bennett

Are you saying you can’t ride on those other trails? Because I frequently encounter people on bikes on those trails.

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