Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The New And Improved Trolley Trail

Mary and I enjoy walking along the all the various trails in town.  Each one offers something completely different.  Westville has been one of our favorite trails.  The nice thing about walking around Westville is that one can edit their walk to any length they happen to be in the mood for. 

Sometimes we will park in the lot in front of the main gate, and head west on the trail along the river, and above Old Mashapaug Road.  The trail offers a great view of the river below, and the sound of the water rolling over the rocks is nice to hear.  After a bit, we will come to the Ed Calcutt Bridge, a steel bridge that crosses the Quinebaug River.  After starring off down the river from the midle of the bridge, we take a short walk over the bridge, and up the grade to River Street, where we turn left and head down the road to Old Mashapaug road.  At Old Mashapaug Road we take another left, and follow it along the other side of the river.  The view is equally as good from high over the water on the this side as it on the other side.  After awhile, the old  abandoned road  feeds onto the the portion currently maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers along the river, and  after short time, we are back at the parking lot. 

That walk is just about three miles, and if we are in the mood, we keep going for a lap around the dam.

The Westville Dam area always has a number of walkers, hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers, and folks pushing strollers around the trails.  It has picnic tables, and  two covered pavilions for large groups that can be reserved for events.  The compacted stone dust makes for good walking, and biking.

Yesterday, we decided to skip Westville, and take a look at the Old TrolleyTrail off of Holland Road.  It's located on the right just before the bridge.  We first walked on Trolley Trail a few years ago, and it was as it must have been when it was first hacked out of the overgrowth by Bob Briere, and others in the 1980's; a bit rustic.  The trail followed the old trolley line, and ended at the Quinebaug River a short distance away.  At the site of the old bridge abutments at the rivers edge was a park bench secured in concrete facing the river, a nice place to sit and veg as one soaked in the view and sound of the river.

The Trolley Trail extension looking up towards the
East Brimfield Dam area from where the trail
used to end..
The trail was simple, and short.  We hiked along the large rip rap along the waters edge up to the East Brimfield Dam, and then returned to the trail via another trail through the meadow, and woods.  This portion of the trail had areas marked with numbers that corresponded to a map.  Each number indicated a plant, or area of interest to the hiker.  It was a nice trail, but I remember thinking that it was disappointing that the trail ended before the dam.

Looking toward the old terminus of the trail with the
Quinebaug River on the right.

Yesterdays hike was very different.  The old trail has undergone a major face lift in 2011. It was widened, covered with a new layer of stone dust, brush cleared from along its edges, new drainage, and culverts installed, and when Mary and I got to park bench at the river we were amazed to see that the trail had been extended all the way up to the dam!

The extension had been hacked out of the woods, the stumps removed, a new trail bed laid down with drainage, and culverts along its edge.  The Brush along the river was cleared away and offered a wonderful view of the rushing water from the dam.

We really were amazed.

Keith Beecher
As we continued to walk up toward the dam on the new trail we came across Keith Beecher of the Army Corps of Engineers.  He asked us how we enjoyed the new trail, and we told him how delighted we were.  Keith told us all about how the trail had been built, where the funds had come from, and how the volunteers had done so much of the grunt work along with Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Tom Chamberland.

We asked him where the trail would go now, would it just stop at the lakes edge, and one would have to walk along the unprotected shoulder of Route 20 to access the Brimfield side.  Keith said that that was the  big question, and that nobody had had an epiphany as of yet. 

I asked if they had considered along side of Route 20 with a separate bike path separated by guardrails from the main road, which I was sure they had, but wanted to know how they felt about it.  Keith said they had, but he preferred that the hiking trail be lower than the road way in order to make those on foot, and on bicycle, safer from the traffic on Route 20.

I like that idea.

Now all it takes is money to design and build it that portion of the trail,  and also a bridge on the Brimfield side to cross the Quinebaug River like the Ed Calcutt Bridge in the Westville Dam area.

Simple ideas, not so simple in obtaining funding.

In the meantime, take a morning, and check out the new trail, or maybe bring a lunch, and enjoy it along side of the river.

Places like this are special, and meant to be enjoyed by all. 

In the meantime, I am sure Keith and Tom will eventually come up with a plan to complete the Sturbridge end of the trail, and a way to fund it.  What was considered impossible has been done before, what's one more impossibility to conquer?


  1. I'm sure it's wonderful, but people are being priced right out of town.
    The Massachusetts Turnpike, in it's own way, is wonderful, too.
    Things cost money. We pay tolls to use the turnpike. Hint, hint.

  2. A grant was received for the work, and a team of volunteers did much of the work. You won't feel this improvement in your pocketbook, and believe me, I asked.


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