A concerted campaign is underway to authorize the Dover Selectmen to enter into a 99-year lease with the MBTA for the abandoned rail bed running through Dover. Misinformation is circulating regarding the development of the rail bed. The following 21 truths address the environmental, financial, rural and personal impact of entering into a lease to develop the rail bed.
The rail bed will be converted into a 3.5 mile Dover trail only.
Dover’s 3.5-mile rail bed is actively being promoted as a key component in the Bay Colony Rail Trail and the Upper Falls Greenway, connecting Newton, Needham, Dover and Medfield, “rivaling the popular Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington.” Visit: baycolonyrailtrail.org & upperfallsgreenway.org.
The developed rail bed will be for Dover residents’ use only.
To arrive at cost estimates for maintaining the developed rail bed, advocates calculate 130,000 visits per year. Noanet Woodlands reports 22.5% of visitors are Dover residents; the remaining visitors are from out-of-town. Dover’s pristine trail system is well publicized among outdoor enthusiasts. It is impossible to keep a developed rail bed open for Dover residents only.
Dover needs another trail, for use by little children, baby strollers and the elderly using walkers.
Dover has over 60 miles of trails, used by people of all ages. Dover’s sidewalks are suitable for baby strollers and elderly with walkers, providing access to town services. Those who use walkers outside are generally not able to walk safely on anything but a paved or concrete surface.
Dover needs an “easy to walk” flat trail or area for recreational use.
The Town of Dover website states Dover has over 1578 acres of open space and 60 miles of trails, the majority of which are called “easy.” In addition to the town’s athletic fields, the recent purchase of Springdale Farm, for $5.5M, accommodates the request for flat open space.
The developed rail bed will be a safe family-friendly environment.
During the day and particularly after dark, the developed rail bed will be a teenager-friendly environment, providing a readily available, secluded and inviting venue for local and out-of-town teens to engage in ‘juvenile’ behavior.
Dover does not have a flat trail running through the center of town to connect public buildings including schools.
Dover’s sidewalks connect public buildings and local businesses. The developed rail bed will not connect public buildings or schools.
The developed rail bed will be maintained in perpetuity by the “Friends of the Dover Greenway,” with no cost to the Town.
According to their website, “Friends of the Dover Greenway” estimate $5K in annual maintenance costs for the 3.5 mile developed rail bed, and commit to covering the cost for 10 years. The MBTA lease is for 99 years. A similar rail bed development project was proposed and defeated in Weston, with maintenance costs exceeding $150K annually.
An abutter to the rail bed believes his children will be able to enter the developed rail bed from his backyard.
Access to the developed rail bed will be limited to certain entrance/exit points only. Unfettered access will disturb potentially contaminated soil used to build trail embankments, compromising the support structure of the developed rail bed.
No additional parking spots are needed for visitors to the trail.
High school fundraising car washes are run from the Town Hall parking lot every spring and fall weekend. Public parking is not available on Hunt Drive or at the north end of the rail bed. Parking at Chickering Fields and Caryl Park are neither adjacent to the rail bed nor available on weekends, due to sporting events. Dover cannot accommodate parking for hundreds or thousands of visitors to the developed rail bed.
The developed rail bed will not be highly trafficked.
Similar 6 mile developed rail beds in Holliston, Milford and Sudbury attract 2,500, 2,500 and 1.100 visitors each Saturday. If Dover, at 3.5 miles, had half this number of visitors, it would translate to 1,000 visits per Saturday and potentially 100,000 weekend visits annually.
At a recent Warrant Committee public meeting, a town official publicly accused the opponents of the developed rail bed of “fear mongering.”
Be True to Dover is a group of longtime residents and concerned citizens who are genuinely committed to keeping the rural character of the town. Be True to Dover wants to be sure all Dover residents receive the truth about entering into a 99-year lease with the MBTA and the plans to develop the rail bed. Be True to Dover believes in transparency and preserving the town’s legacy of pristine open space for its residents.
The developed rail bed surface will always remain stone dust.
The wording of Article 18 states the developed rail bed could be used for “open space and recreation and for all other purposes for which rail trails are now or hereafter may be used in the Commonwealth,” leaving future use and future surfacing open-ended, despite current plans for stone dust or recycled asphalt.
The developed rail bed will lead to “better friendships, stronger families, improved health and a stronger Dover community.”
The developed rail bed will destroy the bucolic nature of our rural town, violate the intentions of our founding fathers and negatively impact the future of Dover’s open space. Dover’s legacy will be protected by voting NO to Article 18.
The developed rail bed will not cost individual Dover residents.
Plans call for abutters to the developed rail bed to pay for constructing their own fencing for privacy and anti-crime purposes. Further, abutters are considering litigation against the Town of Dover regarding tax abatements for their properties, as their home values will decline.
The developed rail bed will not cost the Town of Dover any money.
With the exception of assigning Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and volunteers responsibility for regularly cleaning the area, costs for policing, fire department support, trash removal, landscaping, damage to railings, deckings, support bankings, signage, surfacing and other long term maintenance issues are not quantified in the feasibility studies for the development of the rail bed.
The “Friends of the Dover Greenway” Beals & Thomas study stated “there are no areas on the rail bed that appear to have severe contamination,” yet suggests taking soil samples.
Soil testing is not allowed prior to entering into the 99-year MBTA lease. The Town of Dover has no recourse if contaminants are found; the Town would own the problem.
The rail bridge over the Charles River is not included in the MBTA lease and there are no current plans to repair the bridge connecting Needham and Dover.
Needham has constructed a parking lot at the entrance to the rail bridge; no restrictions exist to prohibit walking or riding bikes across the Centre Street bridge to connect to the Dover rail bed. Further, there is not a Town article prohibiting development of the bridge in future years. The Town of Needham and the Bay Colony Rail Trail are promoting construction of the Charles River trestle bridge.
The abandoned rail bed is an environmental hazard.
Nature is taking back the trail on its own. Woody groundcover, leaves, moss and undergrowth are covering the trail edges and surface. According to Dr. Joseph Mitchell, PhD, the noted ecologist and herpetologist from the University of Richmond, this is the best outcome for conserving land around old trail beds, “The biggest problem I see with using old railroad right-of-ways for trails is the alteration of the habitat used by herps and other animals. If old railroad ties are there, then those features break down and are used by snakes and salamanders for hiding places...”
Development of the rail bed will not harm the environment.
Development plans include removing metal and wood with heavy equipment, digging beneath the existing surface, building elevated embankments with potentially contaminated soil, and capping with 6-12 inches of crushed stone or fill. The plan negatively and permanently impacts wildlife migratory patterns, as well as nesting, natural habitats, vernal pools, and endangered trees including white pine and American chestnut, which border the rail bed. According to renowned forestry and wildlife consultant Susan Morse, “the conservation value of the rewilded rail line is both local and regional. It is local for the natural beauty and biodiversity that clearly exists here; it is regional for the intact and connected diversity of surrounding additional habitats that enrich and sustain the larger ecoregion.”
Problems with unleashed dogs are not expected.
Dogs are the number one problem reported on the developed Holliston rail bed, including dog waste, dog waste bags tossed onto private property, dogs intimidating people, and dogs not under an owner’s control. Holliston police are called regularly about dog problems on the trail. Dover does not have a leash law.
Equestrian access to the current network of trails will not be impacted.
Bridle trails run parallel to the tracks and may be impacted by construction of embankments for the developed rail bed. For over a century, equestrians have had unlimited access to cross the rail bed – this access will be restricted by the development. Equestrians and horses could be put in serious danger by increased pedestrian traffic, bicycles, strollers, unleashed dogs and loud, enthusiastic users of the developed rail bed. Dover’s equestrian community plays a critical role in maintaining, preserving and protecting the trail system.