What is the Bay Colony rail trail?
The Bay Colony Rail Trail (BCRT) is a proposed 7-mile multi-use trail through the towns of Needham (open), Dover (in progress) and Medfield (in progress). We also partner with Newton's Upper Fall Greenway trail (open). The goal of the BCRT project is to construct a multi-use trail (or rail trail) along the unused section of railroad Right-of-Way (ROW) owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Here's an overview map of the regional BCRT corridor:
The proposed path will replace the abandoned railway corridor, most recently operated by the Bay Colony Railroad.
The Bay Colony Rail Trail presents a compelling opportunity to create a natural community resource. The proposed path traverses three communities linking residential areas to business districts, public transportation, schools, recreation areas. At least half the distance runs through conservation land such as the Needham Town Forest and Dover’s Wylde Woods.
The Bay Colony Rail Trail is also part of a much larger network in Eastern Massachusetts that in the future will provide hundreds of miles of loosely interconnected trails within two miles of over a million people.
By town, the path runs as follows:
2 miles from Needham Junction (near Roche Brothers) to the Charles River. It passes under High Rock St., past the Town Forest, to the beautiful Charles River Peninsula (a Trustees of Reservations site).
3.5 miles from the Charles River to Hunt Drive. Crossing the scenic trestle bridge, the corridor passes under Centre St. through the center of Dover, and then goes through two miles of pristine conservation land.
1.5 miles from the Dover line to Ice House Rd, near the Kingsbury Club and the Medfield Senior Center.
About a mile from Easy Street, terminating at a scenic overlook of the Charles River.
What are the expected benefits?
Increased health and wellness resource: a trail gives residents of all ages and physical abilities the chance to exercise and enjoy the outdoors without worrying about noise and dangers of traffic.
Environmentally friendly transportation: a trail provides a viable, safe and green transportation route.
Enhanced open space protection: trails preserve and maintain natural settings.
Stronger civic pride and community identity: trails help to define “livable” towns and connect them to each other; help unite people with varying physical abilities; and aid in preservation of local history.
What is the current use of the rail line?
The MBTA owns the corridor and is willing to lease it at no cost. In towns where there is not currently a rail trail, the corridor is formally abandoned, and falling into disrepair.
The lease would be for 99 years. The T would retain the right to break the lease if demand for rail increases.
Who is managing the project?
The Rail Trail project is planned as a private-public project, where the three towns – Dover, Medfield, and Needham - share the planning, funding and administration of the initiative with the non-profit Bay Colony Rail Trail Association (BCRTA).
Each town will be responsible for all matters related to approval of the trail; policies and rules governing use of the trail; trail access, parking and issues related to the intersection of the trail and public roads; securing publicly available funding as appropriate.
The BCRTA will be responsible for coordinating the project effort; proposing standards for use, amenities and signage; raising funds from private and public sources; once the trail is developed, coordinating volunteer efforts for maintaining and improving public resource; developing and maintaining an annual budget and work plan.
Who is the BCRTA and what is their role?
The Bay Colony Rail Trail Association is a non-profit with the sole mission to define, design, create and maintain the rail trail.
How is the rail trail to be used?
The trail is intended to be used for hiking, walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, and, in some sections, horse riding.
How will we control access to the trail?
Each of the three towns will establish policies and procedures to control access to the rail trail.
What is the impact on property values?
The experience of other rail trails indicates the proximity to a rail trail has no impact or actually increases the value and marketability of adjacent property.
According an analysis conducted by the University of Delaware:
“The majority of studies indicate that the presence of a bike path/trail either increases property values and ease of sale slightly or has no effect. Studies have shown that neighbors of many bike paths/trails feel that the quality of life of their neighborhood has been improved, that the trails were a good use of open space, and in the case of abandoned railways were an improvement from before the trails went in.”
Source: “Project Report for Property Value/Desirability Effects of Bike Paths Adjacent to Residential Areas,” prepared for Delaware Center For Transportation and The State of Delaware Department of Transportation, November 2006
A study published in 2006 on home prices near two trails in Massachusetts, the Minuteman Bikeway and the Nashua River Trail, found that homes near these rail trails sold at 99.3% of the list price as compared to 98.1% of the list price for other homes sold in these towns. The study also found that’s homes near the rail trails sold in an average of 29.3 days as compared to 50.4 days for other homes.
Source: “Home Sales near Two Massachusetts Rail Trails,” prepared by Craig Della Penna, Realtor®, The Murphys Realtors, Inc., Northampton, MA, January 25, 2006