By Chris Kopacko, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to approve during its Aug. 12 meeting a permit for the town of Northborough to open the Wachusett Aqueduct to the public.
Town Planner Kathy Joubert and Trails Committee Chair Bob Mihalek presented to selectmen the latest on a nearly year-long effort by the town to open the aqueduct for recreational trail use.
“We'se at the final stages as far as the paperwork is concerned,” Joubert said.
Mihalek said he's been working closely with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), who owns the land, to come up with a plan to open the 4.2 mile portion of the Wachusett Aqueduct which runs through Northborough to the public for recreational trail use.
“The main thing this would do is it would allow us to advertise,” he said. “They (MWRA) are going to take down the “no trespassing” signs, and then we are allowed to put this corridor on our Northborough Trails website.” Mihalek also pointed out that the MWRA would still be responsible the maintenance of the aqueduct, while the town would be responsible for placing signage along the trail.
In May of 2012, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan along with MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey announced a plan to open more than 40 miles of trails on aqueduct land in 14 Massachusetts communities. In addition to the Wachusett Aqueduct, the MWRA also made the Weston, Cochituate and Sudbury aqueducts available for recreational use as well.
“One of the main things the MWRA is emphasizing is as the towns permit these different sections, you end up with something much greater than the individual mile here or mile there,” Mihalek said. “This corridor could potentially be 40 miles long, from the Wachusett Reservoir all the way in to perhaps Wellesley.”
Selectman Jeff Amberson praised the effort, as well as the Trails Committee for all of their work.
“It's just amazing, the work they'se done,” he said. “I's encourage anybody to get out there and take advantage of it.”
Town Administrator John Coderre echoed Amberson's acclaim. “I just can's say enough about the volunteers on this Trails Committee,” he said. “I think they are a huge, positive asset for our community.”
“I see mountain-bikers coming up from Connecticut to ride Mount Pisgah it's very well-known that we have a good network of trails,” Mihalek said. “It's a pleasure for me to be able to do this, and to have the town's support.”
Joubert and Mihalek said they hope to have the aqueduct open for public use by this autumn. The Northborough Trails Committee website can be found at www.northboroughtrails.org.
Here is the map that shows the three phases for public access along the Wachusett Aqueduct: