Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Facts for Tonight
If you need some information on the controversial topic in Westford's Acton Road neighborhood, look no further.
If you're a Westford Patch fan, you might have noticed that we're big on condensing topics into five things.
But when it comes to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and the meeting on that topic tonight at the Stony Brook School, there's much more than five... Here's just a few things to get you caught up.
What is the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail?: The idea came from former Chelmsford state representative Bruce Freeman, who enjoyed biking on other trails elsewhere in the country.
The first meeting for a trail along the abandoned Penn Central rail line heading from Lowell to Framingham was established in 1985, but Freeman died a year later. In 1987, a bill in the Massachusetts State Legislature named the proposed trail after him.
Phase One of the trail, which stretches from Lowell to the intersection of Carlisle and Acton Road in Westford, was opened in August 2009.
Wait, Phase One?: That's right, there are three phases to the trail. Phase Two will extend from where Phase One stops in Westford, and will extend through Carlisle, Acton, Concord and Sudbury upon their likely completion sometime within the next ten years.
Phase Three is slated to head from Sudbury into Framingham, and that will be constructed sometime after Phase Two.
So, why is this a big deal in Westford?: Last summer, the Westford Board of Selectmen were faced with an unusually high number of parking tickets being given out along Acton Road.
The Board voted to put no parking signs along the road along with signs indicating that the nearest parking was to the north in Chelmsford.
Chelmsford's Board of Selectmen weren't too happy about that, and a meeting was convened at the J.V Fletcher Library in late August to discuss potential plans on how to address the parking problem.
The preferred resolution from that meeting was to place a parking lot in Acton, using a MassWorks grant to construct a lot just south of the Phase One terminus.
While the Acton lot plan isn't dead, the MassWorks grant didn't go through and now there's a delay on the funding and potential jurisdictional issues with removal of the rail lines that would pay for extension of the trail to that point.
Are there other problems?: Well, there's handicapped accessibility issues with the trail, Phase Two towns are still trying to figure out where exactly to put it once it gets past Westford, and neighbors near the trail in Westford are vehemently opposed to any parking lots in residential areas near the trail in Westford.
Also, a dispute between over an easement between residents of Landmark Road (a road near the Trail) and the Westford Conservation Trust got to the point that discussions between the two sides and the town were released at a Selectmen's meeting in January.
Okay, so what is the agenda for this meeting tonight?: Following an introduction....
a. Westford town planner Chris Kluchman will explain the format and objectives of the meeting
b. Westford director of land use management Angus Jennings will go into further detail over what the town has done to try and rectify the problem.
c. Those who brought citizen's petition warrant articles relating to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail for the March 24 Town Meeting will explain their positions.
d. Discussion will ensue, with a possible course of action on what to do next.
We'll have a recap of the meeting here on Westford Patch up for the next morning.