Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Assabet River Rail Trail - October 2017

Think 4.6 miles. That is the round trip distance for Maynard's portion of the nearly complete Assabet River Rail Trail. Round trip in this instance means go to any part of the the Trail, walk either north or south to Maynard's border, reverse directions, go to the other border, then return to your starting place. Voila! 4.6 miles.

The Maynard footbridge over the Assabet River, being lowered into place
by a crane, February 2017. Open for traffic in late May 2017.
And here is a word tour of what you will see, using the west end of the bridge over the Assabet as a starting and ending place. Next to the west end is a stone post carved with "MILE 1.25 MAYNARD"  These stones appear every quarter mile. Heading west, you are starting from Tobin Park. The boarded up white building you soon pass on the left was the site of Maynard's train station. Passenger service stopped in 1958 and the station was torn down in 1960. 

The Trail parallels Main Street to Sudbury Street, where it does a left/right jog to continue on High Street, behind the gas station. At the corner before the left turn there are benches and a stand that will soon display on of the two historic plaques about Maynard, in this instance the mill's history.

The stretch next to High Street is the site of Maynard's major train accident - a derailment of passenger cars on Easter Sunday, 1911. There were a few injuries, but none serous, and no deaths. The trail emerges from a wood-bordered stretch to cross Route 117. Look both ways! Once across, it parallels the canal that conveys water from the Assabet River to the mill pond. By creating the canal, the original, water-powered mill could be at a distance from the dam, providing for a larger vertical drop as water passed through the waterwheel (later, a turbine), and thus more power.
At the Maynard/Stow border
This section before Ice House Landing provides a glimpse on the right to remnants of a concrete foundation of what was once the J.R. Bent Ice House, burned to the ground in 1922. Ice was brought in from the river and shipped out via train. Ice House Landing has a parking lot and a kayak launch dock.

The paved trail continues to the Maynard:Stow border, at White Pond Road, which provides access to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. Be aware that the forested Refuge had been farm and pasture up to when the land was taken from the owners during World War II for munitions storage. The entire forest is less than 80 years old.

Back at the starting point of this tour – the bridge – and now going north toward Acton, there are unfinished stretches. The bit before Summer Street should be completed this fall. At Concord Road the trail is at a complete stop. The plan is for it to continue behind the auto shop/motorcycle shop building, but there is a fenced section with a soil pollution problem that needs to be remediated before construction can begin. Current status is that the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet completed its assessment and recommendation. Until that is done the Massachusetts Department of Transportation cannot provide the construction company with a plan. All this will take into next spring, perhaps summer. What trail users can do now is proceed north on Acton Street, taking that to where it crosses the trail just before ending at Route 27. There had been a shorter connection, by sidewalking around Artisan Automotive and Duncan’s Beemers, but this involved cutting across private property to rejoin the trail. The property owner has recently posted NO TRESPASSING signs.
Signs of a work in progress.

North of the Acton Street hook-up, look for mileage markers. The last Maynard marker is 2.25 miles. About 100 yards past that is the first Acton marker: 0.00 miles. This one is at the Maynard:Acton border. Turning around here and returning to your starting point makes Maynard’s round-trip distance 4.6 miles. Trail users can also continue into Acton, with a great view of wetlands to the west. The Acton trail is still under construction, but when completed, it will cross a boardwalk over wetlands, cross a bridge over Fort Pond Brook, and terminate at Maple Street, Acton, near the train station.

Landscaping is also a work in progress. Tree and shrub planting has been completed, but in the spring there may be a need to replace some of the plantings that did not survive. The Town of Maynard will have to decide what level of maintenance is needed, and also whether to install amenities such as benches and trash receptacles that were not part of the original project.

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