MetroFuture Walks & Talks — May 2014

Rail Trail Workshop in Danvers

Participants standing around trail signage.

On May 22, 2014, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), in collaboration with the Planning Department of the Town of Danvers, offered a two-hour interactive Rail Trail Workshop to neighboring municipalities and regional advocacy groups. The conversation focused on how to accelerate the development of trail projects in a cost-efficient and successful manner, while also creating a space for participants to share best practices, network, and find opportunities to advance MetroFuture goals related to transportation.

Attendees at the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers. MAPC Walk&Talk. Danvers, Mass. 5/22/14. Staff Photo.

Kate Day, planner for the Town of Danvers, opened the conversation by sharing the context in which the Danvers Rail Trail was developed. Kate spoke about the multiple challenges this project faced; but most importantly, she emphasized the commitment of the Town’s Rail Trail Advisory Committee and dozens of volunteers to find the necessary resources to make the Danvers Rail Trail a reality. Ms. Day shared valuable resources with participants who came from over 10 cities and towns in the region, fostering a spirit of inter-municipal collaboration.

David Loutzenheiser, Transportation Planner at MAPC, passed out a status map of the multi-use trail and greenway network throughout the North Shore. He identified the trails that have been completed, and the opportunity for development of new trails on a number of inactive railroad corridors throughout the region. Danvers along with Peabody, Topsfield, and Wenham have provided a great start to developing the trail network. However conversion of the remaining railroad corridors to trails can more than triple the length of the existing trail network. David also talked about the Boston Greenbelt Trail, a proposed ninety-mile walking trail that would connect between Salem and Quincy inside Rt. 128. The Greenbelt would also serve as a catalyst to preserve some of the remaining undeveloped lands in urbanized Boston, as well as to improve conditions for pedestrians along and across busy roadways.

During the second part of the workshop, Kate Day and Sam Cleaves, MAPC’s Subregional Coordinator for the North Shore Task Force, led a walking tour of the rail trail, where the thirty participants had an opportunity to hear about the positive impacts this project has had in Danvers and observe firsthand how local residents have taken ownership of the trail. The walking tour offered a space for attendees to connect with their peers in the region and learn about the status of similar projects in neighboring municipalities.

Walking along the trail. MAPC Walk&Talk. Danvers, Mass. 5/22/14. Staff Photo.

MetroFuture, MAPC’s 30-year plan to better the lives of people who live and work in Metropolitan Boston, highlights the benefits that rail trails and inter-connected paths offer to the region. Within the MetroFuture plan, Goal 46 states that “commuters will have more options to avoid congestion.” One of our agency’s main objectives is to increase the proportion of people walking or biking to work from 17% to 25%, a goal that is achievable only if the best practices and knowledge are shared by the cities and towns spearheading these efforts.

To learn more about MetroFuture and upcoming Walks & Talks, click here!

– Renato Castelo, MAPC Community Engagement Specialist