Students, volunteers collaborate on Westborough accessible trail project

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By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Volunteers work on a boardwalk during a weekend working session for the new Gilmore Pond accessible trail project. Photo/Ellen Bishop
Volunteers work on a boardwalk during a weekend working session for the new Gilmore Pond accessible trail project.
Photo/Ellen Bishop

WESTBOROUGH – Local residents of all walks of life will soon have a new woodland trail to enjoy, thanks to the labors of the Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT), a team of volunteers, and a handful of area students. 

Projected to be completed as soon as this fall, the “all persons’ trail” around Gilmore Pond will be accessible to everyone from people pushing strollers to individuals using wheelchairs to individuals with vision impairments. That alone will mark a change, as this stone dust and boardwalk pathway will replace an existing trail that currently features a number of hazards, limiting access.

“It’s very easy for a lot of people to get to if they’re hikers,” said WCLT Stewardship Committee Chair Keith Martin. “But it’s not so accessible if you are mobility impaired.”

 

Trail project includes rope line 

The WCLT’s Adam Last operates a saw while working on the new Gilmore Pond accessible trail project.
The WCLT’s Adam Last operates a saw while working on the new Gilmore Pond accessible trail project.
Photo/Ellen Bishop

Land Trust members began pursuing accessibility measures at Gilmore after becoming familiar with similar efforts by Mass Audubon. 

“We thought that it would be great to do something like that in Westborough,” Martin said. 

So their plans took shape, involving those stone dust and boardwalk paths, in addition to a post and rope handrail running throughout Gilmore’s loop trail. That will let people who cannot see the path ahead of them still follow the route and enjoy the outdoors. 

By Martin’s count, there are just “two or three” such post-and-rope trails elsewhere in Massachusetts. 

 

Grant, volunteer help supports project

WCLT volunteers lay heavy sections of prefabricated boardwalk that were first assembled by students at Assabet Valley Regional High School. Photo/Submitted
WCLT volunteers lay heavy sections of prefabricated boardwalk that were first assembled by students at Assabet Valley Regional High School.
Photo/Submitted

Tackling this large-scale project, the WCLT won itself $93,000 in grant funding from the state’s Mass Trails program

That paid for materials and contractor labor to augment over 1,000 hours in volunteer efforts at ongoing weekend work sessions. 

The construction aspects of this project were “a little bit daunting,” though, so WCLT reached out again, this time to the Assabet Valley Regional High School in Marlborough. 

There, carpentry teacher Wayne Colson excitedly volunteered his students for what would be a hands-on learning experience. 

“They were very interested in doing a lot of that hard work,” Martin explained. 

Working around COVID-19 restrictions, Assabet students prefabricated 13- 250 pound, 16-foot boardwalk sections, which they then shipped to Westborough for volunteers to place at Gilmore Pond.

 

New trail augments Charm Bracelet

New crushed, strong surfacing creeps over the craggy path Gilmore Pond’s current loop trail carves through the woods. The ongoing accessible trail project at Gilmore will smooth over potential hazards that could trip up individuals with certain disabilities.
New crushed, strong surfacing creeps over the craggy path Gilmore Pond’s current loop trail carves through the woods. The ongoing accessible trail project at Gilmore will smooth over potential hazards that could trip up individuals with certain disabilities.
Photo/Ellen Bishop

The new Gilmore Pond trail will reestablish and strengthen a link in Westborough’s Charm Bracelet Trail System. 

More than 20 years into that ambitious effort to knit Westborough’s separate open spaces together through a connected trail system, Martin said this project embodies the essence of the Charm Bracelet. 

“If people get out and experience and have a good time just walking around the pond, and that gets them to maybe explore some of the other trails, then the benefit of this goes beyond just the people that we’re explicitly doing it to help,” he said. 

Volunteers are currently working on that post-and-rope handrail. They’re also expecting a contractor to return in the near future to smooth out transitions to and from boardwalk sections of the Gilmore Pond trail.