By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
REGION – Officials in Stow are eyeing federal funding to help extend a paved portion of the Assabet River Rail Trail (ARRT) along an existing pathway in their town.
If completed, the project would mark a step forward in the decades-long effort to build a continuous rail trail from Marlborough to Acton.
“The Assabet River Rail Trail project not only offers a creative use for old infrastructure, but will help to fill the void of safe and pleasant places to cycle and walk,” State Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow) said in a recent press release.
Rail Trail’s history traces back to 1990s
The rail trail has existed in varying forms for decades. First considered in the early 1990s, its Marlborough/Hudson section opened in the mid-2000s. A separate portion of the trail then opened in 2018, connecting Maynard and Acton.
Additional trail mileage runs through Stow. But that portion, unlike the Marlborough/Hudson and Maynard/Acton portions, is unpaved.
The Town of Stow is looking to change that, creating a multi-use path on what is known as Track Road.
According to Hudson AART Director Tom Green, Stow officials have already negotiated a right of way agreement with the owner of Track Road, including a caveat in their easement that allows the landowner to drive on whatever gets built.
“There are a number of options being considered,” Green wrote in an email to the Community Advocate.
Even with this project moving forward, though, the rail trail will not yet run as one continuous path.
A large portion of the remaining gap between Track Road and the trail’s Hudson terminus would run through a parcel that had originally been sold off by the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1961. That property is currently owned by the Honey Pot Hill Orchard.
“The current owners of Honeypot Hill Orchards have been contacted many times about granting an easement through their property to allow the state to build a connector between the two segments of the ARRT,” Green wrote. “They are not interested in having a rail trail bisect their property.”
Honeypot did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Funding supports trail extensions
The federal House of Representatives approved $750,000 in funding for the Track Road rail trail extension as part of a much larger appropriations package late last month.
As Stow eyes federal funding for an extension, Marlborough is moving forward with state funding it won back in April to extend its end of the rail trail.
A $178,000 grant from the state’s Shared Winter Streets and Spaces Program will help lengthen the trail by roughly two blocks from its current terminus at the intersection of Lincoln and Highland Street. to a new endpoint on Main Street.