MAPC Hosts 2021 Metro West Trail Summit

A group sits at picnic tables under trees at the Metro West Trail Summit

MAPC Hosts 2021 Metro West Trail Summit

The cities and towns west of Boston boast many lovely paths and trails – but many don’t connect. If they did, cyclists and pedestrians could safely travel large distances for work, errands, or recreation.

Since 2017, the MetroWest Regional Collaborative (MWRC) cities and towns of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Marlborough, Natick, Southborough, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston have worked together with a goal of creating a connected, prominent, regional active transportation and recreation network that follows MAPC's Landline Vision Plan.

On Thursday, August 12, MWRC hosted the 2021 Metro West Trail Summit to celebrate construction milestones, walk recently-completed trails, and build momentum for future projects.

Dozens of local elected officials, city and town staff, cyclists, and advocates gathered at Cochituate State Park for the summit and walking tour, which was kicked off by MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen.

Mr. Draisen opened the conversation by speaking to the importance of trails and open spaces in our lives. He thanked the legislature and administration for support and funding,including a provision in the FY22 budget that enables communities to use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to purchase federal rail-banked lands for trail construction and the Shared Streets and Spaces Program launched last year.

Yolanda Greaves, Chair of the MWRC, Ashland Select Board member, and MAPC Executive Committee member, emceed the event, speaking about the 2017 launch of the MetroWest Landline project at Ashland State park and about the enthusiasm for trails in the region.

Joel Barrera, cofounder of the MetroWest Trails, former MAPC Deputy Director, and former Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Baker, spoke to the progress that has been made in the past 25 years, highlighting programs like Mass Trails and Shared Streets and Spaces that support trail construction. In our lifetimes, he hopes, it will be possible to easily travel throughout Massachusetts across a network of trails and transit.

Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham highlighted the importance of the interconnected trails and her commitment to realizing the vision: her administration has requested funding from the Framingham City Council to purchase one of the rail beds that would form a key connection along the trail.

Senator Becca Rausch of the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District, chair of the Joint Committee on Environment Natural Resources and Agriculture, spoke about the importance of our trails and the open spaces they connect us to. These trails aren’t only beautiful and good for recreation, she said – they're also a vital tool to combat climate change by providing lower-carbon methods of transportation. Even the trees along the trails sequester carbon and provide shade and relief on hot days.

David Loutzenheiser, Senior Transportation Planner at MAPC, then shared a map displaying new trails and connections in the MetroWest Landline network.

Three projects were highlighted in greater detail:

  • Sharon Ron, MAPC Public Health Planner, and Robert Weidknecht described how Holliston used trail counters to collect data on trail activity. This data will inform planning, program evaluation, and advocacy efforts. Read a one-pager on this project.
  • Wayland’s Sarkis Sarkissian and Natick’s Marianne Iarossi spoke about the Shared Streets and Spaces grant that led to the creation of a bike lane on Route 30.
  • Natick Cochituate Rail Trail Advisory Committee chair Josh Ostroff spoke about an under-construction bridge that will stretch the Cochituate Rail Trail over Route 9.

Attendees got to see the last two projects in person during the second part of the summit, when MAPC's David Loutzenheiser led a walking tour of the Cochituate Rail Trail and Route 30 bike lane. The walking tour and lunch that followed offered a space for attendees to connect with their peers in the region and learn about the status of projects nearby. Stay tuned for footage of the speaking portion of the event!