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Opening aqueduct trails to the public

Aqueduct Trail Network

Project background

Weston Aqueduct trailsMore than 40 miles of trails exist along the historic Weston, Sudbury, Cochituate, and Wachusett aqueducts. These aqueducts and resevoirs are part of an emergency backup system and are no longer in daily use for supplying water to the Greater Boston area, yet the land remained closed to the public for many years.

In July 1998, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), in cooperation with MAPC and the communities in Metro West, published a study on the feasibility of authorizing public access to retired aqueduct right of ways (ROW). The Aqueduct Trail system is an ongoing collaboration between the MWRA and MAPC.  The focus is to identify and develop a connected trail system along the four aqueducts (Cochituate, Sudbury, Weston, Wachusett).

In the spring of 2012, MAPC revived the effort to open these trails to the public by working with the MWRA and municipalities. Watch the video here.

As currently proposed, the trail system, when complete, will total 67 miles along three main corridors running roughly east west between Chesnut Hill (Waterworks Museum) and the Wachusett Reservoir in Berlin.

Cochituate Aqueduct – Opened in 1851, the now closed 14 mile long aqueduct passes through Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline.

Sudbury Aqueduct – Opened in 1878, the 16 mile aqueduct passes through Framingham, Sherborn, Natick, Wellesley, Needham, and Newton.

Wachusett Aqueduct – Opened in 1905, the 9 mile aqueduct passes through Clinton, Berlin, and Northborough.

Weston Aqueduct – Opened in 1903, the 13.5 mile aqueduct passes through Southborough, Framingham, Wayland, and Weston.

Aqueduct Trail Network Status Maps

The two maps below provide a status of development of the aqueduct trail system. Public access on the MWRA controlled portions of the trail network (noted in blue on the first map below) require a public access permit between the respective municipality and the MWRA.  Status of this process is identified in the 2nd map below.

The balance of the aqueduct trail system uses public conservation trails (as agreed to by the municipalities) and local roads to connect the gaps.

Aqueduct Trail System – Map of trail type (September 2014)

Aqueduct Trail System – Map of status of public access (January 2015)

For a more detailed map, please refer to our interactive trail map at trailmap.mapc.org.

MAPC’s role

ribbon cutting at Weston Aqueduct trail openingMAPC staff are providing technical assistance to the MWRA and communities along the aqueduct trails to help develop the planning and design changes necessary for making these trails available for public use. On October 22, 2012, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Weston Aqueduct in Framingham marked the first section of the trails officially opened to the public.

Natick, Newton, Wellesley, Weston, Southborough, and Northborough, have started or are near completion of the necessary application process for opening aqueduct trails. The towns of Berlin, Clinton, Marlborough, Needham, Sherborn, and Wayland, as well as several sections of Boston, also have MWRA aqueducts where trails will eventually be opened, after holding public hearings and signing a formal agreement with the MWRA.

MAPC staff time for working with the communities on this project is funded through the Middlesex Community Transformation Grant.

Questions?

For more information about the aqueducts trail project, contact David Loutzenheiser at dloutzenheiser@mapc.org.