Letter to the Editor: Specious Argument about Reformatory Branch Trail

~Submitted by Dan Smythe Jr.

If the argument used in support of the Minuteman Bikeway Extension is that Town Meeting has repeatedly voted in support of the project. Old Town Meeting votes in support of a project are not a valid reason for supporting it. The scope of this project has been greatly expanded over the years.  This project has changed, so the argument that we must support it because it was supported in the past is not valid.

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Mark Bailey
Mark Bailey
19 days ago

Some people with strong opinions on the Minuteman Extension were not even born when the student-led initiative began, at Town Meeting in 1971, and many folks today who care deeply about how our town evolves and grows did not have the opportunity to vote at Town Meeting at the more recent project milestones between 2004 and 2021, including many votes and many public forums, that are detailed in the project timeline posted here: https://www.bedfordma.gov/minuteman-extension. It can be challenging for folks who have not had the opportunity to work with state and federal funding sources to appreciate the long timeframes that are required to get big things done, whether the Minuteman Extension, or the multi-phase Middlesex Turnpike Project. It requires rigorous planning and significant orchestration to have a big project shovel-ready, with all the necessary designs and permits and approvals, at the time funding is actually available. It’s true that the scope has grown from 1971, when we decided to rip up the railroad tracks, to 2010, when we decided on pavement versus leaving as is or using stone dust. However if we consider the decade-long evolution of the current design, the suggestion that it has greatly expanded is not accurate. It’s like saying a public building has drastically changed as it proceeded from the site prep to the foundation to the lower floors and finally the roof. The steady, completely transparent evolution from 2011 through early design, the 25% phase that enabled TIP funding, the 75% phase that incorporated significant public input, such as the addition of stone dust shoulders, and so on up to the point of 100% design, is just how these things get done. Opponents of giving the town clear public ownership of the Reformatory Branch Trail and expanding access to this treasured resource have identified an opportunity, to stretch the building analogy, to tear down the whole building just as we were obtaining the last permits for capping off the roof. They have the right to have their voices heard, as we all do, but ignoring the fact that this is how projects like this are planned and funded not only senselessly wastes the tremendous work, thought, collaboration, and engagement with the public that have gone into a dutiful expression of the will of the voters in 2010, it could jeopardize our capacity to get more big things done in partnership with the state in the future.

Pat Murphy
Pat Murphy
14 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bailey

The way you describe this process makes it sound like the Reformatory Branch trail doesn’t exist yet. It’s a beautiful trail through the woods. I love riding my bike on this trail and I hope the town doesn’t pave it. Also I know you’re not commenting on this but it’s quite funny reading how this project is “green” and environmentally friendly in other posts. I got in trouble for cutting one small diseased tree down in front of my house because it was within a 15′ distance from the road and thus a “town tree”. Yet the “environmentalists” in town are defending cutting down tons of trees for this project and paving miles of earth. All so that a few more people might bike to work (which they already can – the trail already exists).

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