Something to think about… residents have contacted Be True To Dover with concerns about disturbing the environment, migration patterns and wetlands if the rail bed is developed.

waterfall-tracksWe all know the environment is a hot political issue. No matter the environmental topic, there are arguments for and against, with resources and experts to validate respective opinions. This is certainly the case for the proposal to develop the rail bed. In fact, Dover residents who are Licensed Site Professionals – not environmental scientists — have weighed-in on the topic and are in favor of development. We wonder if these professionals have ever walked the length of the rail bed or seen the extent of pristine woodland, which will be forever altered; they never mentioned the serene waterfall, which directly abuts the rail bed in Wylde Woods.

We also know every rail bed is different, and we would be foolish to assume there are no contaminants or other environmental risks associated with this project. Many scientists agree letting Mother Nature naturally take back the rail bed, without moving metal rails and railroad ties, is a safer route to take than bringing in heavy equipment, disturbing the area, recapping it and using potentially contaminated soil to build embankments.

And, we must remember two important points: the MBTA lease is for 99 years and soil testing is not allowed prior to signing a lease. Five years of insurance coverage purchased now will not cover a major lawsuit or class action 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Concerned citizens are asking, “Does Dover have the bandwidth and financial resources to deal with environmental issues we can’t even begin to predict?”

vernal-poolThe original 2013 Rail Trail Committee feasibility study referenced an 8-foot wide trail. The current recommendation is 14-feet wide with even wider embankments to support the structure. Although the Friends of the Greenway-commissioned Beals & Thomas study included a July 2015 site visit, a group of concerned citizens visited the rail bed in April 2016. Unlike Beals & Thomas, these citizens found vibrant and beautiful wetlands, streams, vernal pools and “mini-waterfalls,” all within three to twelve feet of the rail bed. The citizens expressed concern about disregarding the wetlands, and voiced their hope that the Dover Conservation Commission would not allow the wetlands to be destroyed.

Dover is full of wildlife watchers. Observers have noticed in the woods surrounding the rail bed: deer, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles, beavers, frogs, raccoons, coyotes, fox, snakes, fisher cats, mice, salamanders and skunks, among other species. Birders have spotted hawks, owls, wild turkeys, ducks, geese and various rare woodland birds. These wildlife watchers are expressing concern about migration patterns, because it is well documented that abandoned rail beds become migration corridors for many animals. Others worry the destruction of trees and brush will reduce nesting options for migratory birds. Noted scientists agree.

stream-tracksIn discussing rail bed developments, Dr. Joseph Mitchell, the nationally recognized environmental scientist stated, “Consider the vast numbers of small mammals, for example, which reside by the proposed rail trail corridor and within the rail bed itself. Many people honestly believe that wild animals can adjust to losing their habitat. People reason that wildlife will change their behaviors and get used to humans, or simply relocate to another habitat. Unfortunately, these happy endings rarely happen. Each animal’s familiar home range is critical to its success at living and reproduction. Refugees from destroyed habitats are generally not successful at finding another vacant habitat nearby–much less mastering quickly enough the essentials of survival, including finding food, shelter and mates while avoiding enemies.”

Let’s not forget the goals outlined in the 2012 Dover Master Plan, “In addition to preserving Dover’s rural character, the goals of Dover’s open space acquisition efforts are to conserve the current undeveloped land, thereby easing pressure on the groundwater table and the potability of the groundwater, to create green belts and wildlife corridors, which protect natural habitats and biodiversity, and to increase the land available for recreational and athletic use. To this end, the Town purchased the 62-acre Wylde property on Centre St. in 2000, and a 35.8-acre parcel of the Medfield State Hospital land in 2003. Open space acquisition should continue to be a priority to preserve Dover’s rural character and the purity of its groundwater resources.” The development of the rail bed is in direct conflict with the Town’s stated objective to conserve undeveloped land.

We urge you to think about the WHOLE picture. Consider the environment, the unspoiled natural woodlands, the animals, birds, trees and wetlands. The developed rail bed presents too many unanswered questions impacting open space in Dover. We live in Dover to enjoy the rural, peaceful environment our town provides.