The Big-3: Bedford

My 2nd Big-3 rail trail community is Bedford Massachusetts. The Minuteman Rail Trail was first proposed in 1974, 7 years before the railroad was officialy abandoned. Construction first started in 1991 and most of it was finished by 1993.  In 1998, the last section from East Arlington to the Cambridge Alewife station was opened.  The west end of the trail is in Bedford at Depot Park. There are 2 public parking lots, the freight house which is the visitor center, a restored Boston & Maine Railroad passenger car and a bike shop across the street.

The second path that starts at the Depot is the Bedford Narrow-Gauge Rail-Trail. It was opened in 2001 on the abandoned old Billerica & Bedford Railroad. This was the first narrow gauge railroad in the country, opening in 1877. By 1879 it was bankrupt and closed. Six years later, the Boston & Lowell Railroad had converted it to standard gauge and reopened the route. After it was abandoned for good in 1962, it was converted into a 3 mile long rail-trail in 2001.

The third path at the Depot is the Reformatory Branch Rail Trail. It is a rough dirt path that runs about 2 miles to the west, ending at a small parking lot on Route-62. It passes through 3 different conservation areas; Elm Brook, Mary Putnam Webber Wildlife Preserve and the Delovo Conservation area. The March 25th 2010 Bedford Town Meeting voted to authorize design of turning it into a paved rail trail.

In 2008 the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) named the Minuteman Bikeway as the fifth inductee to the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. The Boston-area trail is featured in Rails-to-Trails magazine and on RTC’s Web site, complete with photos and a detailed ride-along description of its scenic views and remarkable history.

The paved 11-mile rail-trail running through suburban Boston is one of New England’s most popular pathways, attracting an estimated 2 millions users a year. Heavily used by pleasure-seekers and commuters alike, the route connects directly with the Alewife “T” Station in Cambridge.

About AssabetRiverRailTrail

Tom Kelleher is the president of the Assabet River Rail Trail 501(3)(c) non-profit and a 25-year resident of Acton MA.
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