tressle bridge

Mass. Central Rail Trail - Wayside

Weston's Rail Trail Advisory Committee wants to hear from residents as it plans for how Weston will accommodate the state's new recreation path, the Mass. Central Rail Trail - Wayside.

The posts below are provided by committee members and each post allows residents to publicly comment or ask questions. At the end of each post, a comment box appears. Residents will need to sign in with an email address before submitting the comment.

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Dec 15

Dec. 5th Neighborhood Meeting Notes

Posted on December 15, 2017 at 9:37 AM by Kara Fleming

First Neighborhood Meeting - December 5, 2017
The abutting neighborhood of Conant Road/Church Street/Pigeon Hill Road/Old Road

Led by Rail Trail Advisory Committee members Paul Penfield and Mark Horowitz
Notes by Christine Bishop 
30 Weston residence in attendance

Mark outlined the goals for the meeting:
  • to provide an update on the status of the Rail Trail (RT); 
  • to surface concerns and ideas from neighbors; and 
  • to gain input for prioritizing what needs to be done before the RT opens.  
Participants included a number of abutters, near neighbors, residents with homes located somewhat farther away, and a mix of people with respect to current and expected use of the RT.

Progress Update
Mark and Paul updated neighbors on the progress of the RT, including details of the timing of bids and contracts; demolition and construction activities that must be halted when the ground freezes; and salvage operations for the rails and ties.  

It is unlikely that rails and ties will be cleared east of Concord Road this year.  Although paving might begin in Wayland this fall, it is unlikely that any paving will be done in Weston until next year.  The committee members emphasized that the process is being advanced by multiple parties:
  • Eversource leases the land from the MBTA and will construct a gravel road; 
  • DCR [Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation] will pave over the gravel to promote a recreational purpose for the RT; 
  • Town committees involved include Conservation Commission, Historical Commission, and Planning Board, as well as the Rail Trail Advisory Committee (RTAC) itself.  
Town Meeting has just authorized a modest amount of funds for planning, which is being allocated to a planning firm (Utile) already working on parking in the Town Center, a landscape architect, and an engineering firm.

First Steps Discussion
Mark stated the opinion that the three areas that should be addressed before the RT is complete are: safety, parking, and signage.  There are differing opinions about what should be specified and implemented early, before the RT opens, and what should be allowed to evolve as townspeople observe how the trail is used.  For example, an abutter might develop a more accurate idea that s/he could have now about what abatement will be needed.  Mark put forward the idea that historical markers and plantings could wait until a later date. 

Bruce Lee applied this idea to parking, suggesting that parking for RT users could be planned and designated in advance, or planners could wait to see where people actually did enter the RT and parked and then set up parking access and restrictions to respond to actual use. A concern was raised about the Town budget: apparently, there are high-ticket items coming up in the near future, so if funds are needed, it might be better to get RT projects specified, budgeted, and completed early, rather than allowing understanding of needs to evolve.  

Dick Floyd asked about whether abutters would hear bothersome construction noise as the track is cleared and mowed, and gravel and asphalt are put down.  Paul stressed that more important is the dangerous nature of any ongoing construction zones, which are marked but not guarded, and people should avoid using the trail until completion.  

A question was asked about whether cross-country skiing would be feasible on the trail in its unfinished state this winter.  Mark responded that this should be as possible as it was last year, and noted that an effort was being made to avoid leaving the area disturbed (after the removal of rails and ties) over the winter and early spring season because of the potential harm posed to abutting wetlands from possible contaminated soil. Four small areas off the trail have been identified as having contamination and are cordoned off.  Eversource is responsible for remediation, under the direction of MassDEP and a dust mitigation plan during construction is in place.

Parking Discussion
A request was made for tasteful “No Parking” signs so that RT users do not park on residential streets.  There was a discussion concerning whether parking lots for the trail would be developed, and where they would be located.  Concerns were raised that parking off Church St. would exacerbate the ever-worsening Church St. traffic; however, the logical place for parking, by the depot, is private property, not owned by any of the relevant parties. Several neighbors suggested that RT visitors be directed to park around the Town Green (Town House Road) rather than in any expanded or designated parking area.

One opinion was that any designated parking would only increase use and traffic.  Mark raised the question whether having designated RT parking might do a better job of containing and directing parking, as opposed to restrictions on parking that might leave people with little choice but to park wherever they would have anyway.  For example, if one side of a street was designated for the RT parking and the other side were restricted to residents or “no parking,” visitors would likely park in a more orderly manner. 

Cat Rock parking was cited as a comparison, although participants had different interpretations of this situation.  Some felt that setting up a parking lot with lined spaces, combined with “no parking” signs on the residential street, had reduced visitor overflow at Cat Rock Park and led to more orderly parking, off the residential street; others reported that overflow visitors still parked wherever they wanted to. The opinion was expressed that another access point for the RT would be a better choice for parking than Church St. – for example the Gun Club Lane access point is not on a congested street and would bother fewer abutters.  

Safety Discussion
Abutting neighbors differed in their assessment of possible risks to their property.  The most prominent fears concerned people using drugs on or near the RT; improper disposal of cigarettes causing fire damage to houses and private land; and use of abutters’ property, or the woods or trail, as a toilet.  

A fence or wall along the entire length of the trail was raised as one appealing answer for some of these concerns.  DCR will pay for almost all of the elements that are essential to a successful RT, but Mark clarified that a fence or plantings to shield all abutters is an unrealistic expectation and not in the DCR plans or budget. Nevertheless, there may be selected portions of the RT where planners will suggest plantings or a fence to shield abutters who are especially close to the RT. Neighborhood input was sought to identify areas where fencing or visual abatement would be especially valuable.

Individual abutters are welcome to erect fences, plantings, and surveillance cameras on their own property.  The suggestion was made that since fences, especially those close to a property line, need a building permit, it would be helpful if the Town allowed a blanket permit for fences constructed by abutters along the RT.  In response, the point was made that this was not feasible, but it should be possible to inform abutters of options that are likely to be acceptable to the Planning Board. It is legally permissible for the Town to use Town funds to erect fences or plantings on private property, but only if the Town receives something in return, namely an easement; and of course such barriers must be deemed to be in the public interest.

The deployment of surveillance cameras on the RT was suggested. Collective approaches by abutters and other neighbors, for example, Neighborhood Watch, were briefly discussed.  Abutters were encouraged to investigate technology (e.g. Safe City app) that could allow them to alert each other and the police if something were amiss. 

One attendee requested that Weston Police be more active in planning how to patrol the RT.  It was suggested that the Police Department and Fire Department develop a detailed written system for monitoring the RT on a daily basis and for responding to urgent concerns and needs. This system should be in place and fully operational prior to the RT opening. The RT will be open only in daylight hours, though people who are on the trail at sunset are permitted if they are moving toward an exit; this allows commuters to use the RT for a return commute in short winter days. 

There were several comments made about access to toilet facilities for RT visitors.  One idea was to list nearby public facilities on welcome signs at access points. Another was to deploy portable toilets. The RT Committee said that public toilets were unlikely to be a part of the RT plans.

Signage Discussion
Suggestions were made for introductory signs at entry points, including a map of the trail and RT rules or expectations. The Planning Board will work with the RT Advisory Committee on aesthetics of safety and other installations, for example, safety bollards, slope protection, access, and signage.  

Other Concerns
Concern was raised about the RT’s Church St. underpass – that cement stairs and concrete railings are crumbling and the tunnel may need bolstering.

Eventually, the trail underpass at Conant Road will be opened, but not until 2019 at the earliest.  This means that RT will dead-end from each side at Conant Road.  This gives rise to concerns about safety and about the liability of property owners at this dead end because a RT user who attempted to climb up and over Conant Road could be injured on private property.

No motorized vehicles will be allowed on the trail except for motorized wheelchairs.  Horses will be allowed on the RT but will make their own path at the side of the paved trail, since they do not care to walk on asphalt.  There is no provision for clean-up of horse manure, but it is believed that equestrians will mostly use the RT to access the Town Forest, rather than as a desirable riding path per se. 

One person (not attending this meeting) has been heard requesting that dogs not be allowed on the RT unless they are service dogs in harness. There is no plan to restrict dogs.  Dog walkers are currently active users of the current rail path. It was suggested that dispensers for dog waste bags be available at RT access points.

At the end of the meeting, a strong concern was raised by one participant that the RT risks diminishing Weston’s peaceful rural atmosphere.  RT committee members reiterated that the RT will move forward no matter what, so it is important that abutters and Town citizens make their wishes known concerning mitigation of potential harms and ways to increase value to the Town.


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