Rails to Trails project on May 10 ballot
By Caitlyn Kelleher Journal Staff Writer
Voters will have a chance to express their opinion on a
proposal to bring the Rail Trail to town.
Selectman Robert Plamondon advocated adding a non-bidding
referendum to the ballot on May 10 regarding the controversial
issue. Plamondon wants residents to simply express their opinion.
"I think the whole town should get the chance to vote on
it," he said. "It's a test balloon."
Plamondon supports the proposal to replace the abandon railroad
tracks from Harbor Village to Depot Street in the center of town
with a bike path.
"I think it would be beneficial to the town," he
The special election on May 10 is primarily to fill the seat on
the Board of Selectmen that Peter Collins is vacating. Collins
announced in February that he would resign this spring because of
Plamondon said he wants the question asked on a ballot instead
of at the annual town meeting for two reasons. He thinks more
people will have the chance to vote on the question and he thinks
that people will be more honest in their opinions.
"You aren't worried about what your neighbor will
think," he said.
The proposed Squannacook River Rail Trial is 2.5 miles long. It
would start at the Harbor Village Shopping Center - across the
street from North Middlesex Regional High School and near the town
line with Groton. It is designed to run along the river to the
center of town.
The abandon track is owned by the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority, which is willing to lease the property
to the town for $1 for 85 years, committee member William Rideout
said. The tracks used to be owned by the Boston-Maine Rail Company
but the company went bankrupt, he said.
"The last train ran frieght in 1981," Rideout said.
The Rails to Trails project is a nationwide effort to convert
the old railroad lines that crisscrossed the country. The federal
government pays 80 percent of the cost of converting the land and
the state picks up the remaining 20 percent.
"It means no capital outlay for the town," Plamondon
The feasibility committee was started in 2002.
The committee members have talked with abutters, trail
designers in other towns, as well as area police chiefs, said
Rideout. They have tried to alleviate concerns and work with the
abutters, he said.
Caitlyn Kelleher can be reached at (978) 827-3386, ext. 15,
or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org