Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2018: A Wet, Warm Year

MAYNARD, MA: As 2018 draws to a close, there is a sense that this has been a rainy year, with a delayed start to winter weather. True or not? Trend or not?

True. Using Boston weather data, through November 7th there has already been 44 inches of precipitation for the year. That figure counts rain and melted snow. The yearly average is 43.8 inches, so the average was exceeded with nearly two months to go. Closing out the year, long-term data predicted an additional 6.8 inches of precipitation by the end of December. However, by the time you read this, Maynard may have already gotten an additional 2-3 inches of rain, and perhaps a bit of snow. And right now, the extended Thanksgiving weekend is looking to be wet. For those who cannot remember what the whole year was like, March and April were well above average, May through July was drought, then August through now have been well above average.

UPDATE: Through morning of November 18th, Boston reports 47.6 inches of precipitation. Locally, the 2018-2019 winter has had five inches of snow.

Left scale is Assabet River volume in cfs, indicated by the swooping
line. Horizontal lines are also inches of precipitation per month, amounts
indicated by rain drops or snow flakes. Summer is not a low precipitation
season, but because plants take up so much water, the river is low.
This is in stark contrast to the extended drought that had persisted from 2012 through 2017. As for long-term trends – wetter. Massachusetts records dating to before 1900 show that average annual precipitation was in range of 35 to 40 inches gradually but consistently increasing to 45 to 50 inches. There are always exceptional years. Those with long memories can tell about the severe drought of 1964-66. More recently, the flood year of 2010, with 15 inches of rain over late February into mid-March, pushed the year’s total to almost 65 inches. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if 2019 and beyond stay above the long-term average or revert to the recent drought years. Keep in mind that Maynard draws roughly 900,000 gallons per day from its well fields, discharging a similar amount into the Assabet River as processed wastewater, so is extremely important that our aquifers be recharged by adequate rainfall and snowmelt.  

Congregational Church, Maynard, MA, seen in a
snow storm. Click on photos to enlarge.
One not surprising consequence of the trend for wetter years had been more water in the Assabet River. Record keeping by the U.S. Geological Survey dates back to 1942, and shows that river water volume has increased from 160 to 225 cubic feet per second (cfs). As of this column being submitted on November 9th the river was at 709 cfs. This compared to an average of 90 cfs for mid-November. (A cubic foot equates to 7.48 gallons, so 709 cfs equals 19.1 million gallons per hour.) Rainwater and snowmelt run off far, far exceed Maynard's water needs, but the town has no reservoir to retain the surplus water.  

As for freezing temperatures and the white stuff, this year has been warmer than average. From pre-1900 to present the Massachusetts average annual temperature has gone up one degree – from 47.3 to 48.3. Even modest increases in temperature have consequences. Winter has become shorter. One indication is that peak lilac blooming time has shifted from late to early May. Warm air can hold a higher water content than cold air, so storms tend to be more intense, meaning wetter and also windier. Think back to March, when a series of tree-toppling storms crashed our area. Some of the woodland trails still have tree blockages that were too massive for volunteers to manage.  

Long-term averages are less than one inch of snow in November, and 12 inches for December. That’s for Boston. The snowier Worcester expects 18 inches in December. Us, being midway between, might expect 15 inches of snow before the end of 2018. One surprising consequence of warmer and wetter, is that while winter has been becoming shorter, it is also wetter, packing more snow into a shorter season. The winter of 2010-11 set an all-time record, and for Boston, of the ten snowiest winters dating back to 1890, five has been in the last 20 years. This is a good time to make sure the snowblower is winter-ready.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rail Trail Safety


With the completion of the Assabet River Rail Trail in Maynard and Acton, many people are discovering the joys of not sharing their exercise space with cars and trucks. The downside is that trails - which exclude motor vehicles – still have their own safety concerns. The danger points are two: where the trail crosses roads, and interactions among people using the trail.

STOP sign for trail users and trail crossing signs for vehicle
drivers. Route 27 and Acton Street intersection.
Manyard, and also Hudson, differ from Acton and Marlborough – the other two places where the Assabet River Rail Trail exists – because of the many street crossings. In Acton, the 1.25 miles of trail crosses no streets. In Maynard, the 2.25 miles of trail crosses nine streets. Approaching these intersections on the trail there are large, white words “STOP AHEAD” painted on the trial itself and trail-size red-and-white STOP signs. These accomplish nothing if people on the trail do not actually stop. Often, bicyclists and runners approach the intersections, look as best they can in the direction of oncoming vehicle traffic, and then proceed without having come to a complete stop. This is especially dangerous at the Route 27 and Acton Street intersection, as the vehicles heading south on Route 27 barely slow down to make the right turn onto Acton Street. Bushes and small trees have been cleared about 40 yards back from the intersection to provide improved sight lines for trail users and drivers. Trail users are advised to come to a full stop and activate the strobe light system, which exists at this and four other locations in Maynard.     

The Assabet River Rail Trail, like many other rail trails, has posted Guidelines for Sharing the Path. Key point for all users: “KEEP TO THE RIGHT except to pass.” Key points for pedestrians: don’t walk more than two abreast, look before changing direction, and keep you dog on a leash (maximum 6 feet). Key points for bicyclists: bicyclists must yield to pedestrians, pass on the left and only when safe, maximum speed 15 MPH and give an audible warning before passing. The same guidelines should apply to any wheeled means of transportation, be it rollerblades, skateboards or scooters. Guideline signs are posted at the Acton end and Ice House Landing, in Maynard.

Trail users should understand that the most common type of accident is when pedestrians are approached from behind by people on faster moving wheeled vehicles, mostly meaning bicycles. The pedestrians – or their children, or their dogs – may veer from walking a straight line at the same time as being passed. The riders’ contribution to these accidents is not warning those about to be passed, either by ringing a bell or by loudly saying “On your left.” Even an audible may not suffice if the pedestrian is listening to music via earbuds. Or is a child. Or is a dog.

Rail Trail guidelines. Click on image to enlarge.
From one website: “Preventing these collisions can be a headache for authorities. In general, many bicycle/pedestrian accidents take place at crossings, junctions or on pavement - spots on the road or trail where things get congested. These situations can be tricky. If you are a pedestrian walking lawfully on the sidewalk and a bicyclist hit you due to their reckless nature, you can file a claim for your injuries. On the other hand, if a pedestrian is distracted and causes a law-abiding bicyclist to crash, the bicyclist could file a claim against the pedestrian.”

Usage of recreational trails by people on electric motor assist bicycles and scooters is a special case regulated by state law. While some states allow e-bikes on protected trails, Massachusetts presently does not. The exact wording of the law “…but shall be excluded from off-street recreational bicycle paths.” Even when being operated on roads, e-bike and e-scooter operators must have a Massachusetts driver’s license or learner’s permit, wear a helmet, and not exceed speeds over 25 mph.
  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Trail of Flowers - Planting daffodils

Trail of Flowers volunteers digging out an area 70 feet long, four feet 
wide and six inches deep for the daffodil planting. That's a lot of dirt!
On Saturday, October 20, 2018, under a rain-threatening sky, sixteen volunteers put in a morning of digging and digging and digging at the Marble Farm historic site in order to plant an estimated 900 daffodil bulbs. This was the inaugural effort of a program to turn the Assabet River Rail Trail [www.arrtinc.org] into a Trail of Flowers. In the following week hundreds more daffodils to be planted at various locations along the trail, bringing the total to 1,600 bulbs.

The idea is that each fall, thousands of flowering bulbs will be planted at locations adjacent to the trail, so that in the spring, there will be weeks of flowers. Daffodils were chosen for this site because its location at the north border of Maynard, puts it square where deer would eat any planted tulips. More central to town there will also be tulip planting, and perhaps mixes of smaller bulbs such as snowdrops and crocuses. People who's backyards border the trail will be asked to plant bulbs, flowering annuals and perennials at the back of their properties.

David Mark, founder of Trail of
Flowers, stands next to a daffodil
sculpture he created for the planting
event. It will reappear at flowering
 time. The house foundation is beyond
 the stone wall.
In time, plantings may extend to Acton (and even to the south part of the trail, in Hudson and Marlborough). The trail will become a springtime destination for trail walkers, runners and bicyclists from other towns, perhaps including a stop at one of Maynard's cafes.

A giant daffodil: To spice up the planting event, a giant daffodil sculpture was created from a Christmas tree stand, fence post, six pieces of plywood painted yellow and a plastic flower pot painted orange. The sculpture will put in appearances at future events - in time perhaps to be joined by a giant tulip.

Marble Farm: For those who are not familiar with the recently completed section of the Assabet River Rail Trail that crosses Maynard and extends north into Acton, it passes a location across Route 27 from Christmas Motors that was settled by the Marble family circa 1705. There is a plaque at the site with description and photos. Briefly, the family lived at the site, in the same house, for more than 200 years (the house burned in 1924). What remains is impressive stone walls and the stone foundation of the house. The latter is too overgrown at the moment to get more than a glimpse of, but if the entire site was cleared, made safe, and maintained, it could become an addition to Maynard's 'pocket parks,' joining Carbone and Tobin Parks as small greenspace gems.     

Group photo before the digging started. Click on photos
to enlarge. Before this project started the grassy area
where people are standing was overgrown with Oriental
bittersweet, blackberry and sumac. 
Spring Flower Walk: Flowers are expected to be blooming from late March into early May. In April there will be an organized flower-viewing rail trail walk from downtown Maynard to the site. The walk will pass by the intersection of Summer, Maple and Brooks Streets, which includes Maplebrook Park, a garden maintained by Maynard Community Gardeners dating back to 1995. 

The launch of this project was made possible by generous donations from Maynard Community Gardeners and the Assabet River Rail Trail organization. The Town of Maynard approved this use of the Marble Farm site, which is town-owned land. Thanks to all who made this possible. Think spring!


Mysterious iron ring, now painted orange

Archeological finds: While digging out the bulb bed were limited to a few glass fragments, a few colonial or post-colonial pottery shards and one half-pint, clear-glass bottle with seams down both sides (meaning machine-made rather than blown), with no brand or maker marks in the glass. Anchored into the ground in the middle of the flat area now planted with grass is this mysterious iron ring, which is about four inches across. Previous finds from the foundation include beer bottles and a horse shoe. Non-archeological finds include Bud Lite beer cans and nips bottles. Bricks from the two collapsed chimneys, remnants of the 1924 fire that destroyed the house, were used to create the base of the bricked path that now connects the Rail Trail to the historical site lawn where the daffodils were planted. (Bricks from a chimney teardown elsewhere were used for the surface of that path.)

Progress: As of 10/27, 1300 planted, 700 to go. Numbers not always in accord in this and the volunteers needed columns because original order was for 2,000 daffodils, shipper sent 1,600 in time for planting on 10/20 and the rest were cancelled. But then the shipper sent the remaining 400. Not charged for and not required to return. Hence, 2,000. More holes to dig. 

As of 11/10, 1850 planted, 250 to go. Turns out the supplier over-fills the bags, so '100' is often 110-120 bulbs per bag. Subtracting discards (damaged or fungus-rotted), and best estimate for total is 2,100. Locations: Marble Farm site, behind Cumberland Farms gas station, intersection of Summer, Maple and Brooks streets, and a few surprise spots. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Gleasondale, MA, aka Rock Bottom

The definition of “rock bottom’ is of being the very lowest. The phrase is often used nowadays to describe someone deep into drug, alcohol or gambling addiction as “hitting rock bottom” before attempting a recovery. The historical origin, however, appears to be more of mining term, meaning the layer of solid rock that exists beneath soil, clay, glacial till and alluvial deposits. Thus, "rock bottom" started out as a simple synonym for "bedrock" in the mid-1800's, mostly in the context of mining. Once a miner or driller hit rock bottom, the quest for water, gold or whatever was over. Later it carried over to ‘rock bottom’ prices on items offered for sale.

Gleasondale Dam, Stow, MA. This is one of six historic dams
on the Assabet River, none of which are currently providing
any function. The Powdermill Dam in Acton may be restored
 to generate electricity. Click on any photo to enlarge.
For the years 1815-1898 the hamlet sprawled across south Stow and northeast Hudson was initially called, then named, Rock Bottom. The story goes that in 1815 – or thereabouts – the Randall family sold land, mills (saw mill and corn mill) and water rights to businessmen intent on constructing a factory on the site. When the men who were digging the foundation for the factory hit bedrock, Joel Cranston, one of the owners, called out that they had reached rock bottom. Apparently, the owners were so taken with the phrase that in 1815 they incorporated their nascent business as the Rock Bottom Cotton and Woolen Factory. In time, the name carried over to the community, to the point that it had a Rock Bottom Post Office, and on an 1888 map of Massachusetts, the Rocky Bottom train station.

Prior to this infusion of the Industrial Revolution, early owners of the land surrounding the river were the Whitman family, with a dam and mills built by Ebenezer Graves. Whitmans and Graves are buried in the Stow Lower Village Cemetery. The river gained a bridge in 1769. The land and mills were sold to Timothy Gibson in 1770, a few years later sold by him to Abraham Randall. The area was known as Randall Mills from 1776 to 1815. Of note, these early mills were on the east side of the Assabet River, and the dam was about 80 feet downstream from the location of the currently existing dam. On Abraham’s death the property went to his sons, who in turn sold to Joel Cranston. His business partners included Silas Jewell, Silas Felton and Elijah Hale. The business failed during the Recession of 1829, ownership ending up with a Benjamin Poor, who was responsible for having a new dam circa 1830 and a factory building constructed.

Gleasondale mill, original brick building at back right, with belfrey.
Extension on right and building to left were later additions.
Hard times persisted. In 1849 the mill was purchased by Benjamin W. Gleason and Samuel Dale. They expanded operations, and replaced the waterwheel with a more efficient turbine. Then, disaster stuck! On May 9, 1852 the entire mill burned to the ground. It was replaced by a brick factory building, 125 feet long, 50 feet wide, and five stories high, completed in 1854. A description from a 2011 Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory report: “The structure’s granite lintels, slate shingles, and gabled roof, capped by a distinct belfry at its northern end, are reminiscent of the Greek Revival style popular in the early era of mill architecture.” The dam was replaced by what is the current dam in 1883.

Ownership and management continued into a second generation of Gleasons and Dales while the name transformed from B.W. Gleason & Co., to Dale Bros & Co., to B.W. Gleason’s Sons, and finally settled down to being Gleasondale Mills in 1898, acknowledged by a name-change for the post office. With this went the end of Rock Bottom and the beginning of Gleasondale, which name persists to this day, although the hamlet no longer has a post office or a train station to call its own. As a remnant namesake, the road into the mill building shows up on Google maps as Rockbottom Road.

An anecdote: On March 31, 1911, Phineas Feather, former superintendent of the Gleasondale Mills, attempted to murder Alfred Gleason, mill owner. At the mill headquarters he confronted Gleason over money he felt due him, then drew a revolver from his pocket. Mill superintendent Charles E. Roberts was shot through the chest, and although severely wounded, disarmed Feather, and with Gleason’s help wrestled him to the floor. Robert J. Bevis and others ran into the office to help subdue Feather. During the struggle Bevis and Feather were both shot, in the hand and arm, respectively, by a second gun Feather drew from another pocket. Feather was arrested. All survived their injuries. Feather was remanded to the Bridgewater Hospital for the Criminally Insane, an institution under supervision of the wonderfully named Massachusetts State Board of Health, Charity and Lunacy. He was released in 1915.

Today, the mill buildings stand as host to small businesses that at one time or another have included printing, engraving, woodworking, furniture refinishing, product warehousing and antiques storage. The dam exists, but serves no function. Various studies to revitalize the mill complex have come to naught.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Volunteers Really Needed (Maynard, MA)

Marble Farm historic site, October 2018. Daffodil
planting will be in front of the far stone wall.
A repeat of last week’s column. Volunteer responses have been weak, so if you or anyone you know wants to be involved in these efforts to improve Maynard’s outdoor spaces, now is the time. One key change – the bulb planning weekend has been shifted to October 20-21.

So once again: Can you handle a brush saw? Know which end of a shovel goes into the ground? Not afraid of the outdoors? Then there are two – yes, two – volunteer opportunities waiting for you this fall: Trailkeepers and Trail of Flowers (TOF).

Maynard has miles of woodland trails on town land that are is need of maintenance. Without constant work, these trails are reverting to impassable woods. The town’s website Open Space and Trails Map shows a trail that has done exactly that, as a short trail into Blue Jay Woods, off the west side of Blue Jay Way, no longer exists. Miles of trail in, around and across Rockland Woods, Durant Pond, Silver Hill, Summer Hill, Assabet River Walk, Carbone Park, Ice House Landing, The School Woods and Glenwood Cemetery could suffer the same fate.

Repaired brick path leading onto the
Marble Farm historic site. Area
immediately behind cleared and
planted with grass and daffodils.
Kaitlin Young, the recently hired Conservation Agent, serving the Conservation Commission, hopes to resurrect the idea of a volunteers’ group to maintain existing trails and perhaps create new ones. The proposed name is Trailkeepers. The thinking is to recruit volunteers, have an organizational meeting in October, and plan to send out work groups in November and through winter. The idea behind the timing is that once frosts are occurring that should be the end of deer tick risk. Volunteers would be expected to clear brush that is encroaching on trails, cut-and-remove small trees that are blocking trails, repaint blaze marks on trees, and so on. Organizational meeting tentatively set for Wednesday, October 17, to be followed by trail work after frosts end the deer tick risk and before serious snow. 

As to “Trail of Flowers,” now that the Assabet River Rail Trail is paved in Acton and Maynard, a proposal has been made to embellish the trail with extensive plantings of spring-blooming bulbs. The proposer is David Mark (me). Briefly, donations have been made to pay for the purchase of bulbs. In November, volunteers will be asked to commit to showing up for day or two, tentatively mornings of October 20 and 21, to plant bulbs. It will be BYOS, as in bring-your-own-shovel. If this gets off to a good start this fall, with an impressive blooming next March and April, the project will become an annual effort.

A couple of hundred daffodils were planted at the Marble Farm site in 2009.
This is a photo of the blooming, spring 2010. Without maintenance, the area
became overgrown with Oriental bittersweet. Click on photo to enlarge.
For this kick-off year the plan is to plant 1500 daffodils at the Marble Farm historic site, which is at Maynard’s north end of the trail, across from Christmas Motors. In addition, flyers will be delivered to the homes of people who are trail abutters, suggesting they plant bulbs and other flowers on the trailsides of their own properties. Bulbs will be provided to them. For future years, other sites in Maynard (and possibly in Acton) will be mass-planted with bulbs and other perennial flowers.

Each spring there will be an organized flower-viewing trail walk, with suggestions to wear flower-themed clothing (Hawaiian shirts, anyone?). And a flower poster to promote the event and list sponsors. And a website. The 2019 walk will start at the footbridge over the Assabet River, pass by Tulip Corner (intersection of Summer, Maple and Brooks Streets), then proceed north on the Rail Trail to Marble Farm.   

On Saturday, October 20, volunteers planted approximately 900 daffodils at the Marble Farm site. Remaining bulbs to be planted elsewhere along the Trail. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Volunteers Needed (Maynard, MA)

Can you handle a brush saw? Know which end of a shovel goes into the ground? Not afraid of the outdoors? Then there are two – yes, two – volunteer opportunities waiting for you this fall: Trailkeepers and Trail of Flowers (TOF).

Trees brought down onto Assabet Riverwalk by March storms.
For scale, that is a five gallon bucket and an 18" saw.
Maynard has miles of woodland trails on town land that are is need of maintenance. Without constant work, these trails are reverting to impassable woods. The town’s website Open Space and Trails Map shows a trail that has done exactly that, as a short trail into Blue Jay Woods, off the west side of Blue Jay Way, no longer exists. Miles of trail in, around and across Rockland Woods, Durant Pond, Silver Hill, Summer Hill, Assabet River Walk, Carbone Park, Ice House Landing, The School Woods and Glenwood Cemetery could suffer the same fate.

Kaitlin Young, the recently hired Conservation Agent, serving the Conservation Commission, hopes to resurrect the idea of a volunteers’ group to maintain existing trails and perhaps create new ones. The proposed name is Trailkeepers. The thinking is to recruit volunteers, have an organizational meeting in October, and plan to send out work groups in November and through winter. The idea behind the timing is that once frosts are occurring that should be the end of deer tick risk. Volunteers would be expected to clear brush that is encroaching on trails, cut-and-remove small trees that are blocking trails, repaint blaze marks on trees, and so on. Organizational meeting tentatively set for Wednesday, October 17, to be followed by trail work after frosts end the deer tick risk and before serious snow. 

As to “Trail of Flowers,” now that the Assabet River Rail Trail is paved in Acton and Maynard, a proposal has been made to embellish the trail with extensive plantings of spring-blooming bulbs. The proposer is David Mark (me). Briefly, donations have been made to pay for the purchase of bulbs. In November, volunteers will be asked to commit to showing up for day or two, tentatively October 20 and 21, to plant bulbs. It will be BYOS, as in bring-your-own-shovel. If this gets off to a good start this fall, with an impressive blooming next April, the project will become an annual effort.

Tulips at Summer, Maple and Brooks Streets = Tulip Corner
New bulbs will be planted here. Click on photo to enlarge
For this kick-off year the plan is to plant 2,000 daffodils at the Marble Farm historic site, which is at Maynard’s north end of the trail, across from Christmas Motors. In addition, flyers will be delivered to the homes of people who are trail abutters, suggesting they plant bulbs and other flowers on the trailsides of their own properties. For future years, other sites in Maynard (and possibly in Acton) will be mass-planted with bulbs and other perennial flowers.

Each spring there will be an organized flower-viewing trail walk, with suggestions to wear flower-themed clothing (Hawaiian shirts, anyone?). And a flower poster to promote the event and list sponsors. And a website. The 2019 walk will start at the footbridge over the Assabet River, pass by Tulip Corner (intersection of Summer, Maple and Brooks Streets), then proceed north on the Rail Trail to Marble Farm, where refreshments will be served.   

The Town of Maynard approves. To wit: Will this cost the Town any money? No. Will this require the Department of Public Works to do any planting or maintenance? No. Will this interfere with DPW’s intent to mow the borders of the Trail? No. This is a great idea!

As it appeared in the newspaper, this column had email contacts for Kaitlin Young and David Mark. Responses led to the creation of a trailkeepers group, and enough volunteers to plant 1,200 daffodil bulbs at the Marble Farm site and elsewhere. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Other Towns Named Maynard

Welcome to MAYNARD (Massachusetts)
Back when immigration was mostly from England, Maynard was not an uncommon surname in the American colonies. Glenwood Cemetery has eleven Maynards not closely related to Amory Maynard. Per the very entertaining website www.howmanyofme.com, typing in “Maynard” as a last name yields 43,332 people in the United States with that name. Far fewer than (2.9 million) or Jones (1.7 million), but not rare. Several of them loaned their names to towns other than Maynard, Massachusetts (2010 census population 10,106; area 5.4 square miles; founded 1871; named after Amory Maynard).

Maynard, Iowa (pop 518, area 1.02 sq. mi.).  Henry Travis Maynard moved from Illinois to Iowa in 1861. Other people settled there, in a community that came to be known as Long Grove. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota Railroad reached the area in 1873. As there was another Long Grove elsewhere in the state, a state judge decreed that this Long Grove would be named “Maynard” mainly because Henry Maynard (1816-1903) had donated the land needed for the railroad station. Official incorporation took place in 1887, but the town celebrates its founding as 1873. Henry Maynard is buried in the Long Grove Cemetery, as are his second wife and seven of his nine children. 

Maynard, Minnesota (pop 366; area 0.65 sq. mi.). The city was platted in 1887 by John M. Spicer, a land developer and superintendent of the Great Northern Railway. A plat is a map, drawn to scale, of the divisions of an area of land. Once platted, lots can be sold. Maynard was named in honor of Spicer’s sister's husband: Grayon Gates Maynard. (Spicer also named the villages of Raymond, Russell, and Ruthton after his children, and the town of Spicer after himself.) Maynard was incorporated on January 8, 1897. A meander through genealogies traced the namee back to a John Maynard (1630-1711) – born in England, died in colonial Marlborough – the great-great-great-grandfather of our Amory Maynard.

Capt. John Maynard of Maynard, AK.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Maynard, Arkansas (pop 426; area 1.1 sq. mi.). John Maynard, formerly a captain in the Confederate Army, spent some time in Texas before moving to Arkansas in 1872, where he opened a dry goods store, and farmed 900 acres, mostly cotton. Other families and businessmen joined him in the village they called New Prospect. When they applied for a post office in 1885 that name was rejected and the office was named ‘Maynard.’ The town incorporated as Maynard in 1895. John Maynard died in 1917 and is buried in the Maynard Cemetery next to his wife Sarah “Sallie” Maynard, who was 27 years younger than her husband.

Maynard, AR, is home to Maynard High School, mascot a tiger, school colors black and gold. I mentioned this seemingly obscure trivia to a group of our high school students who were volunteering at the recent OARS-organized annual Assabet River clean-up, only to learn that it is common knowledge at our Maynard High School that it has a doppelganger elsewhere.

Maynardville, Tennessee (pop 2,413; area 5.4 sq. mi.). Maynardville is the county capital of Union County, TN. It began as a small community named Liberty. When Union was proposed as a county, Knox County, being called upon to give up some of its land, opposed. A lawyer named Horace Maynard (1814-1882) successfully defended the proposal, so the town was later renamed in his honor. Maynardville dates it founding to 1870. Horace went on to be a Congressman representing Tennessee, and later Postmaster General for the U.S. Postal Service. Interestingly, he and Amory Maynard were both great-great-great grandchildren of John Maynard. Amory and Horace were both born in Marlborough, MA, Amory ten years earlier, so very possible that they knew each other.

In conclusion, three of the five namesake communities (MA, MN, TN) were named after descendants of John Maynard, who crossed the Atlantic with his father when he was eight years old. All were so-named when the men in question were still alive to appreciate the honor (or in Amory Manyard’s case, to dictate the honor).

POSTSCRIPT (not in newspaper)

Maynard, Texas (population ~100). Post office named "Maynard" in 1880, but this area about 60 miles north of Houston was never incorporated. Population dipped as low as ~25 after World War II, but rebounded a bit with renewed oil well activity in the area. Two churches and three cemeteries. No information on how it got its name. Maynard, TX might have been settled by free Blacks after the Civil War.

Maynard, Ohio (population unknown). Unincorporated community in eastern Ohio, tentatively identified as named after Horace Maynard (see Maynardville, TN) when a Post Office was established in 1880. Currently has a post office and zip code.

Other: There are Maynard-named neighborhoods within towns in at least a dozen other states.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Influenza Epidemic of 1918 (Massachusetts)

Fort Devens Hospital, Massachusetts (Click images to enlarge)
September 1918, Fort Devens, west of Littleton, was a major staging area for U.S. Army troops preparing to ship off to Europe, we having entered into World War I in April of that year. Fort Devens was also one of the two earliest stateside sites of the “Spanish Flu” pandemic, the other being among Navy personnel stationed in Boston. At Devens, the first case was reported September 8. By September 23 the number of men ill exceeded 10,500. Deaths reached 100/day. More than half a million Americans died. Worldwide, within little over two years, the flu infected an estimated half billion people, killing between fifty and one hundred million.

Deaths were unevenly distributed by age and by region of the world. Influenza typically kills the young and the old. What was unique about this flu was that there was a high risk of death for people ages 15-35 years, the reason being that their immune systems responded too vigorously. In developed countries – those with hospitals and nursing care – deaths were on the order of two percent of the population. With poorer medical care, more like five to ten percent, and in remote reaches of the earth where people had fewer prior exposures to any strains of influenza, exceeding twenty percent.

Men, sick with flu at Fort Devens, MA. For a period
in the fall of 1918 deaths exceeded 100/day.
The fact that World War I was ongoing contributed to the speed the flu spread worldwide. Troops were constantly being moved. War-time censorship hindered knowledge of the extent of the problem. This censorship was why the popular name is the “Spanish flu,” as Spanish newspapers, in a country neutral in WWI and hence not censored, produced lots of headlines and articles about the disease. (In Spain it was referred to as the “French flu.”)

Viruses have been described as being a bit of bad news (in the form of a strand of DNA or RNA) wrapped in proteins. For this influenza virus damage was threefold: 1) the virus getting into cells, replicating and then killed those cells so as to re-enter the blood stream to find new cells, 2) the patient’s immune system reaction to the foreign proteins coating the outside of the virus, causing more damage than the actual virus, and 3) viral infection created an opportunity for bacterial pneumonia. This particular virus caused so much damage because it reached deep into the lungs rather than just the upper respiratory system, and because it triggered a massive inflammation response. In effect, people were dying of collateral damage as their immune system over-reacted while trying to neutralize the virus. At autopsy, lungs were often blueish, signifying oxygen deprivation, and filled with fluid. Those the virus-triggered reaction did not kill outright succumbed to bacterial pneumonia.

In Maynard, the first death attributed to influenza was 
Patrick D. Meagher, Curate at St. Bridget's Church.
Locally, the arrival of influenza is documented in the Town of Maynard Annual Report, which reported deaths with causes noted. Regardless of whether the contagion reached Maynard from Fort Devens or Boston, the first death identified as either influenza or “la grippe” dates to September 22, 1918, the last on July 21, 1919. In that interval there were 38 deaths identified as influenza and another 18 attributed to pneumonia. Combined, a bit under one percent of the population. Likely, ten to twenty times that number had become ill but recovered. Schools were closed for five weeks. Glenwood Cemetery has a section (7-O, old cemetery) with unmarked graves of Maynard citizens who died from cholera, smallpox and influenza epidemics. A single stone was erected in their memory by the Maynard Boy Scouts.
Deaths from influenza continued into 1919 (not shown)

The Town of Stow Annual Report listed 11 deaths from broncho or lobar pneumonia, the first occurring September 21, 1918. Population was 1,100 compared to Maynard's 7,000 so this would have also been around one percent.

Glenwood Cemetery, Maynard, MA,
monument for section with unmarked graves.
True ‘Ground Zero’ for this pandemic is disputed to this day. Influenza viruses are pan-species, moving back and forth among people, pigs and birds. Researchers propose Kansas, or a troops staging and hospital camp in France, or perhaps China (?!). To this last, military historians point out that with so many men of France and Great Britain in uniform, nearly 100,000 Chinese laborers were transported to France for purposes of behind-the-front labor. There is some evidence that a respiratory illness recorded in China was a precursor to what mutated into this extremely lethal virus.

Since the influenza pandemic of 100 years ago there have been other, smaller pandemics – the Asian flu of 1958-59 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 each killing on the order of one million people. Each spring, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies the three or four strains of flu likely to be prevalent in the pending fall and winter, and prepares an injectable vaccine. New vaccines are needed each year because the rapid mutation rate of influenza RNA means that the immune system virus identification ability engendered by the previous year’s vaccination will not continue to be effective.

Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on vaccine) that research suggests will be most common. The CDC has already determined which strains will be used for the 2018-19 flu season: A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1), A/Singapore/ A(H3N2), B/Colorado/06/2017 and optionally, B/Phuket/3073/2013.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Babe is Back! (Babe Ruth)

Maynard mural by Jack Pabis, September 2018. Click to enlarge.
The long-empty Murphy & Snyder building at the corner of Waltham and Parker Streets is now graced with murals on both sides – an abstract-to-real portrayal of a hummingbird approaching a flower on the south side; swooping colors, mosaics of birds in flight, and Henry David Thoreau looking down out of a window to see Babe Ruth in a Rex Sox uniform on the north side. The latter is a creation of Jack Pabis, an experienced muralist working out of Maryland, who has an intriguing website statement “I can paint anything. I can paint anywhere.”

Why Ruth? Because he was here. During the off season of 1917-1918, George ‘Babe’ Ruth and his wife Helen rented a small cabin on the shore of Willis Pond, Sudbury. At that time Ruth, age 22, was well-off, but not rich, his pay for the 1917 season had been $5,000 ($98,500 in today’s dollars). He had been with the Red Sox since late 1914. In 1917 he was a pitcher, his at bats only in those games he was pitching. His win/loss record was 24-13. Only later did he switch to being an every-game player lauded for his home run hitting – the “The Sultan of Swat.”

George 'Babe' Ruth, with Red Sox
from 1914-1919; then sold to Yankees.
From north Sudbury, Maynard was the closest place with shopping. According to one account, George ‘Babe’ Ruth and his wife Helen would drive to Maynard, where Helen would shop at Woolworths and other places while George would buy cigars and play pool at the Maynard Smoke Shop. Ralph Sheridan, younger brother of the owners, recounted that he recognized Ruth the first time he walked into the store. At times, Sheridan and other young Maynard men would walk to Willis Pond. Once they got there George and Helen would invite them inside for hot cocoa and cookies. Helen would play piano and everyone would sing along.

The Babe also drank in Maynard. According to an account from Bob Merriam, heard from his grandfather, Ruth would show up at Bughouse Corner, a small bar on the south corner of Waltham and Parker, buy everyone drinks and stay till closing. (Meanwhile his wife of three years was alone back at the cabin.) Sometimes Ruth was too drunk to make his way home, and would sleep it off on a couch at someone’s house. Years later, with the Yankees, Ruth was required to sign a morals clause addendum to his contract, promising to abstain entirely from the use of intoxicating liquors, and to not stay up later than 1:00 a.m. during the training and playing season without permission of the manager. 

Henry David Thoreau looking out of a
window (detail from Maynard mural)
And for that matter, why Thoreau? Again, because he was here. Thoreau and a friend walked through Maynard before it was Maynard. The date was September 4, 1851. Their plan was a roundtrip walk of about 20 miles to Boon Pond and back. Approaching what was ‘Assabet Village,’ at the time a hamlet in growth mode because of the woolen mill that had started operating in 1846 and the railroad in 1850, Thoreau wrote in his journal of passing the gunpowder mill and the paper mill, the latter standing where the Murphy & Snyder building is now, then proceeding south on Waltham Street. He turned right on Old Marlboro Road to the pond. On the way home he walked the railroad tracks, crossed the Assabet River at the White Pond Road bridge, made a connection to Concord Street, and so back to Concord.   

Hummingbird mural, Maynard, MA August 2018
The opposite side of the Murphy & Snyder building was recently graced with a mural “Hummingbirds,” painted by Eric Giddings and Ben ‘Berj’ Braley. Together, the murals are a first effort of “Maynard As A Canvas.” This concept was brought to fruition by Erik Hansen, a Maynard artist, who had been impressed by public murals during a visit to Iceland. His proposal was acted on by the Maynard Cultural Council. An announcement in 2017 for proposals from experienced murals artists yielded 80 entries, winnowed down to six finalists, and then two winning entries. The result represents a commitment from the Town of Maynard to support public art and the recent Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognition of the Assabet Village Cultural District.

Children, waiting for a bus to take
them to the United Co-op day camp.
(Maynard Historical Society)
Alpert Murphy and John Snyder started their printing business in 1917, and for many years printed the high school yearbook. They were in several Maynard locations, the last being a move to this building on Waltham Street, in 1957. The business closed its doors in 2003. The building has been empty since then. Prior to Murphy & Snyder, it had been a branch store of the United Co-operative Society, constructed for the Society in 1936.

Not in the newspaper column: The Co-op had its beginnings as the Kaleva Co-operative Association in 1907, started by Finnish immigrants who worked at the mill. The name was changed to United Co-operative Society of Maynard in 1921. At its peak, the Co-op operated a supermarket, bakery, dairy delivery, coal and fuel oil delivery, gas station, ice delivery, restaurant, educational programs in Finnish and English and a children's summer day camp.The Co-op's existence continued into the 1970s. Two columns about Babe Ruth and Maynard posted November 2013.   


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Treeless in Maynard

Clearing for the Assabet River Rail Trail involved cutting
hundreds of trees, some more than a foot in diameter. This
photo of section behind Cumberland Farms gas station.
Instead of “Sleepless in Seattle,” how about “Treeless in Maynard?”  From either Google’s satellite map or casual driving around, there is a first-glance sense that Maynard is adequately treed, but arborist history tells a different and continually changing story. The de-treeing of our town is a consequence of deliberate deforestation, species-specific diseases, invasive insect species, invasive plant species, uncompensated storm damage, deferred maintenance, and even the consequences of the return of deer and beaver to eastern Massachusetts.  

The colonists’ approach to a wooded New England was “The first thing we do, let's cut down all the trees." The resultant landscape was farmland and pasture. Massachusetts gradually became rewooded after the mid-nineteenth century as farms were abandoned, people either shifted toward factory jobs in cities or relocated to the fertile, flatter lands of western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Demand for wood for fuel was superseded by coal and oil.

Abandoned farm land reforested naturally, but a conscious decision was necessary for industrial era towns – trees or no trees? In that era of people not having cars or air conditioning, trees provided shade for sidewalks and homes. There are studies showing that in urban and suburban environments, more trees per square mile leads to cooler, cleaner air, happier people, and even lower medical expenses for treatment of physical and mental ailments.

Two tree diseases caused dramatic changes to public-space plantings. Chestnut blight, an airborne fungus accidentally introduced to the United States around 1904, killed as estimated three billion trees from Mississippi to Maine within 50 years. Subsequently, many cities, towns and college campuses were planted with rows of elm trees – note streets named Elm or Elmwood – but in 1928 a shipment of logs from the Netherlands that was infested with elm bark beetles led to a fungal plague that killed between 75 and 100 million trees.

Hurricane damage, Sept 1938
Invasive insect species had a massive impact. The caterpillars of Gypsy, Brown-tail and Winter moths (plus native tent caterpillars) can completely defoliate trees. If this happens for several years in a row the trees become weakened and suspect to disease. The larvae of Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned beetles have a more directly fatal impact on ash and other deciduous trees, as does the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlocks. The impact of invasive plant species is subtle, but still considerable. Oriental bittersweet vines grow into the tops of mature trees, overshadowing the trees’ leaves and breaking branches with weight, until the trees die. Japanese Barberry and Garlic Mustard release chemicals into the soil that hinder the growth of other plants.

Eastern Massachusetts suffered extensive tree damage from a September 1938 hurricane. Maynard’s annual report for that year mentions 900 trees blown down in streets, parks, cemeteries and on houses, and an additional 800 trees severely damaged. The report goes on to mention that 780 trees were planted to replace what was lost. Closer to now, creating the Assabet River Rail Trail caused the cutting of more than 600 trees four or more inches in diameter, with replacement plantings of smaller trees perhaps one-fifth that number.

Hurricane damage, Sept 1938. Photos courtesy of
Maynard Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
Deer browse on small trees. The result is a forest of mature and old trees, but no replacement trees in the understory. Beaver have returned to the Assabet River and are killing many of the trees bordering the river and millpond.          

Lastly, the Town of Maynard will need to decide how to manage what had once been scores of trees planted along Nason and Main Streets and other public places. Most of these are either long-dead, stumps cut flush with the ground, or standing dead, or standing sickly. Consequently, the streets are becoming shade-free zones, the sidewalks punctuated by squares of dirt from which nothing is growing.

How to combat the treeless trend? Have a program to promote trees on town property and giveaways for plantings on private property. As new buildings are proposed, have a master plan that preserves greenspace, providing for both recreational parks and nature reserves. The City of New York posts an Approved Species List for urban plantings, with division into large, medium intermediate and small trees: https://www.nycgovparks.org/trees/street-tree-planting/species-list. Trees rule!

Not in article: Norway maple was a popular urban and suburban tree choice in the second half of the twentieth century, but was designated by Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an invasive species in 2006, sales banned. Removal of existing trees not required. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

World War II: Maynard's Observation Tower

World War II observation tower built atop Summer Hill, Maynard, MA.
Staffed initially by volunteers from American Legion, replaced by
U.S. Coast Guard. Abandoned after war, and burned October 31, 1951.

Once the war commenced in Europe, Maynard appointed Guyer W. Fowler as Chief Air Raid Warden. Women were trained as volunteer air raid wardens. The American Legion – veterans of service in the U.S. armed forces – took it upon themselves to use the hose-drying tower at the fire station on Nason Street to serve as an airplane watch tower. Then, three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Maynard’s Selectmen declared a “state of emergency.” A decision was made to build an observation tower atop Summer Hill. Louis Boeske donated the gravel for an access road – the same road used to service the town’s water tanks today – and townspeople, including many high school students, provided the labor. The tower became operational January 12, 1942. An open house event was conducted on March 1, 1942, attended by 500 people! The tower was staffed around the clock.

The concept of civilian observers was loosely modeled on the Royal Observer Corps, Great Britain’s civilian spare-time volunteers, who provided invaluable enemy plane observations to the Royal Air Force during World War II. The ROC started out as untrained civilians with binoculars. It evolved to a uniformed corps of men and women, still civilian, deeply involved in guiding RAF planes during the Battle of Britain, and then for the Normandy invasion, ROC men were stationed on Allied ships to help them avoid firing at their own planes.

Here in Maynard, the operation of the observation tower remained in civilian hands until January 1943, when staffing was taken over by the 605th U.S. Coast Guard Artillery. Maynard was a valid strategic target. The mill was making blankets for the U.S. Army. A quarter of Maynard land on the south side had been taken by eminent domain in April 1942 to create a munitions storage and transfer facility called the Maynard Ordnance Supply Depot. Gunpowder was being manufactured on the Maynard/Acton border at the American Powder Company.  

In retrospect, the creation of the observation tower on Summer Hill, complemented by formation of a committee to implement blackout drills, and having the streets department filling with sand any buckets or other containers people placed outside their homes, for purpose of extinguishing fires started by bombs, was all moot. Germany had no aircraft carriers. German battleships never operated in the western parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Plans for German long-range bombers were initiated, but never came to fruition. The only serious reach of the Axis forces across the North Atlantic was the operation of submarines up and down the coast (and into the Gulf of Mexico), which sank hundreds of ships, some within sight of major cities.

The U.S. Army constructed concrete watch towers along the east coast, including sites in Massachusetts such as Marblehead Neck, but the intended purpose was to scan the ocean for submarines. Back then, submarines spent most or the time on the surface because that allowed propulsion from diesel engines. Once submerged, all power came from batteries. Underwater, the boats were slower, and time underwater was limited. Coastal watchtowers made sense. Inland, not so much.

Reservoirs on top of Summer Hill. Old tank (left), built 1888,
concrete, roof added after this photo taken. New tank (right)
was steel construction, built 1972. Gravity provides water
pressure for town's water system (and fire hydrants).
Combined capacity approximately 4.6 million gallons,
the equivalent of a 4-6 day water supply for the town. 
After the war ended, Maynard’s observation tower was obsolete. The government returned it to the town. It deteriorated. In 1947 the tower was turned over to Maynard’s Boy Scout Troop. The night of October 30, 1951, the tower was completely destroyed by fire. Paul Boothroyd, lifelong resident of Maynard, mentioned that his father put in time at the observation tower, and said that the location was where Maynard’s second water reservoir tank was built in 1972.

CODA: There are rumors of German POWs working at the woolen mill during the war. This is not true. While there were scores of prison camps scattered across the United States to hold some 400,000+ prisoners, only a few camps were in Massachusetts, and no POWs were assigned to work in the mill. The closest prison camp was Fort Devens, host to 3,100 “Anti-Nazi” prisoners. These were men who had been in the German Army, but opposed Nazi government and philosophy. (Many were socialists or communists.) There were segregated from other German prisoners for their own safety.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Maynard Garden Club 1938-1962

Peony (click on photos to enlarge)

The garden club we have now – Maynard Community Gardeners, 1995-present, is not a continuation or rebirth of the Maynard Garden Club that came into being September 1938 and apparently ended circa 1962. The Maynard Historical Society has copious notes on the first garden club, including minutes from many of the early meetings.

The decision to form a local garden club was triggered by a presentation by Mrs. Walsh, President of the Winthrop Garden Club, on the topic “Garden Clubs.”  Early on, a constitution and by-laws were composed. Initially, membership was limited to 25 and annual dues were $.50, later changed to 35 members and $1.00. Per the MGC constitution: “The object of the Club shall be to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs.” In comparison, the present-day Maynard Community Gardeners has approximately 90 dues-paying members, dues of $20/year and as its mission statement: “Dedicated to sharing a common interest in horticultural activities, promoting town beautification, and creating gardening opportunities for all.”

In comparison, the present-day Maynard Community Gardeners has approximately 100 dues paying members. Per the MGC constitution: “The object of the Club shall be to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs.”

There is an interesting letter from 1939, advice from the same Mrs. Walsh, on whether the Maynard club should join the Federation. This was apparently the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. Mrs. Walsh wrote “The Federation activities are run by a group of wealthy women, Groton, Lexington, Concord, Newton, etc., with large estates and they have plenty of money to do things with…there is quite a feeling that the smaller clubs are like ‘poor relations’ if you know what I mean.” There is no record that MGC joined. The Federation still exists. Maynard Community Gardeners is not a member.

The club’s finances were modest in the extreme. The 1940 Treasurer’s report noted $13.00 collected in dues and $4.50 in entry fees for the annual flower show. Expenditures included $16.50 paid to speakers and $3.00 for membership in the Massachusetts Agricultural Society.

Cover art on the
1960-1961 program.
The annual programs, which for most years described monthly meetings spanning September to June, were printed on card stock with an artist’s drawing of a flower arrangement on the front cover. In addition to educational speakers presenting at the meetings, the club also performed public service – there are thank-you notes from the Bedford Veterans Hospital expressing thanks for the donation of flower arrangements, and a note that at least for a time the club was helping maintain a garden at Emerson Hospital.

Sometimes gifts to other organizations were modest in nature. A record of donations for 1951 to 1955, inclusive, totaled $23.00. That included $5.00 to Maynard Girl Scouts, $5.00 to the Jimmy Fund, $5.00 to MA Heart Fund and $4.00 to Red Cross. 

There were parallels between the garden club then and the garden club now, including bringing in outside speakers, corresponding with other garden clubs, field trips to places such as Garden in the Woods, a holiday season party with exchanges of gifts, and an annual plant sale.

Maynard Community Gardeners plant sale, 2013
One difference is that the present-day garden club does not have a judged flower arrangement contest. A second difference is that the present-day club has a community outreach program that includes the perennial plantings at Maplebrook Park, plantings at the “Welcome to Maynard” signs and the historic horse watering troughs, plus flower barrels scattered about downtown on Nason and Main Streets. For the last, the town provides the barrels; members adopt a barrel and are then responsible for planting and watering. The town gathers up the barrels in the fall. 

Toward the end of the existence of the Maynard Garden Club there were 24 members – all women – and the annual program ran from September to June. Meeting presentations were mostly by members. Topics included such as: Flower Arrangements, Dried Flower Arrangements, Christmas Corsages, Valentine Arrangements, Day Lillies, and a joint meeting with the Maynard Woman’s Club (itself in existence 1904-1976). There is nothing in the files to show that the Maynard Garden club Continued beyond the 1961-62 year.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Photos from the ARRT Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

ASSABET RIVER RAIL TRAIL: A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on August 10th, 2:00 p.m., at the Acton end of the Assabet River Rail Trail. Mass Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary/CEO Stephanie Pollack, was joined by state and town officials to say a few words. Everyone was eloquent, and the crowd of roughly 100 people stayed to the end despite the hot summer day. Their reward was cake and lemonade.

D'Allessandro Corp. was the construction company. Despite the
ceremony, there is still an unfinished section about 200 yards
long, just north of Concord Street. May be completed by
Labor Day. The delay is due to contaminated soil.

Cake! Printed with the ARRT logo and the names of the
five towns connected (sort of) by the rail trail. Reality is
a north end and a south end, but nothing for Stow, in the middle.

The gathered crowd of about 100 people. More than two
dozen rode bicycles to get there. Others had walked the
Trail from Maynard to Acton.

Maynard has in mind making the trail a "Trail of Flowers"
by allowing volunteers to plant daffodils and tulips and
other spring blooming bulbs along the trail. This photo is
of a volunteer planted plot older than the Trail, corner
of Summer, Brooks and Maple.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ARRT Ribbon Cutting Event - Aug 2018

July 2016: Ground-breaking
ceremony for Acton/Maynard.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for August 10th, 2:00 p.m., at the Acton end of the Assabet River Rail Trail. Mass Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary/CEO Stephanie Pollack will join state and local officials (not yet named) at the event. If the weather is nice, consider walking, running or bicycling to the site. Mileage markers are in place. Maynard’s start at the Stow/Maynard border (White Pond Road), at 0.0 miles. The last in Maynard reads 2.25. And then, 100 yards farther, is the Maynard/Acton border with a 0.0 stone to indicate the start of the Acton section. Combined length 3.4 miles.

1992-2002: The idea of converting 12.5 miles of obsolete railroad right-of-way into a rail trail was first conceived by local activists in 1992. The catalyst for this was several federal laws, including the National Trails System Act, that had led to the creation of more than 600 rails-to-trails conversions by 1994. Locally, the Assabet River Rail Trail as an organization was established in 1994 with Jeff Richards as president and Duncan Power as secretary (a role Duncan still holds to this day). Thomas Kelleher succeeded Richards as president in 2001 and still holds that position to this day. Over the years, feasibility studies led to engineering surveys led to federal and state and town funding. A key milestone was the transfer of the right-of-way from the MBTA to towns, in 2002.  

2003-06: Construction initiated on the 5.8 mile, Marlborough/Hudson portion of the Trail; completedBoston, so together they could start up a carpet mill on the Assabet River.
ARRT's blue caboose is in Hudson, between
Route 62 and the Rail Trail. 
2006. ‘ARRT-south’ offers a blue caboose, two river crossings, passage between stone abutments, a tunnel under the Route 85 connection to Interstate I-290, and an overlook providing a view of the Fort Meadow Reservoir. Amory Maynard’s sale of the Fort Meadow water rights to the City of Boston in 1845 as an intended water supply was the making of his fortune. Amory pooled his money with William Knight, who had also sold water rights to

2006-2016: Volunteers belonging to the ARRT organization (www.ARRTinc.org) met almost monthly, and often conducted group efforts to maintain the paved portion and improved the northeast end to a point where it could be hiked or bicycled. In Maynard, where rails were still in place, volunteers filed between the rails with wood chips so as to make a packed, level surface, much preferred to trying to walk, run or ride on the exposed railroad ties.  

Logo for ARRT organization
2016-18: At a July ground-breaking event held in Maynard, construction of the 3.4 mile, Maynard/Acton portion of the trail was officially started, completed August 2018. There was a delay (and additional cost, borne by Mass Dept Transportation) to remediate contaminated soil on the section north of Concord Street. Final landscaping is a work in progress. Tree and shrub planting has been nearly completed, but a few of last year’s plantings did not survive the winter and will be replaced. ‘ARRT-north’ offers a boardwalk and two bridges, transit through the center of Maynard, and a north terminus at the South Action train station. Going forward, the towns will have to decide what level of maintenance is needed, whether to snowplow in winter, and also whether to install amenities such as benches and trash receptacles that were not part of the original project.

Replacement bridge, 2017. Click on
any photo to enlarge
Railroad trestle bridge over Fort Pond
Brook, before 2016.
Future/National: The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), a non-profit organization promoting trail creation and use, estimates that there are currently more than 30,000 miles of trails in the United States, with an additional 8,000 miles under consideration. RTC (www.traillink.com) lists 82 trails in Massachusetts, ranging in length from 0.1 to 38 miles.

Future/Local: A proposal has informally been made to the Town of Maynard to make the town’s portion a “Trail of Flowers” by having volunteers plant flowering bulbs, mostly daffodils and tulips, alongside suitable portions of the Trail. Each fall would have a weekend or two designated as bulb-planting weekend. Volunteers would coordinate where to plant (sites first OK’d by Town). The idea is to add beauty to the Trail, for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.