Storm Damage

Today I checked out most of ARRT route in Hudson and Marlborough. It’s been 7 days since the record-breaking October 2011 snowstorm hit New England and the ARRT wasn’t immune to the damage.

Starting out at the east end of the trail, the Wilkins Street parking lot and the section running westward was in good shape, with only one large blow down that had already been cleaned up. The section from Cox Street, past the caboose, and through downtown Hudson was perfect. That’s to be expected, with not that many trees near the trail.

Coming up on the High Bridge over the Assabet River, I see the first change. Sometime in the last 2 months, the Hudson DPW has removed the flimsy top plank on top of every trail fence, for the entire length of the trail. We have been complaining about those planks for years, so it’s nice to see them finally gone.

South of Washington Street is where the real damage starts. Coming up behind Hannafords Supermarket, I see a middle-aged couple appear to be meticulously removing some loose branches from the side of the trail. Getting a little closer, I see that they are striping off the clusters of red and orange berries on the branches. So they were no help!

Beyond Hannafords, there are tree limbs on or beside the pavement every 50 feet, for the next 1/2 mile. I can’t imagine what it must have sounded like last Saturday night, with branches crashing to the ground every couple of minutes, all in less than 12 hours. Even the RR telltale at the Farmers Bridge got hit by falling branches, bending the top of the iron bars, 30 feet above the ground.

Past Farmers Bridge is the 1000′ straight away through the densest forest of the entire trail. This is where the big trees came down, taking out the railings on both sides of the trail. The Hudson DPW seems to have started work here a couple of days ago. The broken fence rails have been neatly stacked up on the side, waiting to be nailed back on the fence posts.

This is a good spot for some quick informal research. The biggest fallen tree is about 18′ in diameter. The chainsaw cut lets me count the tree rings. The tree seems to be about 50-55 years old, far younger than I would have guessed.

About 8 saplings had been planted on the Hudson side of the tunnel in 2005. With this storm, the last 3 trees have been lost. Not by losing branches, but toppling over at the roots.  The mural in the tunnel is in good shape and the overhead lights are back on. But there had been so much graffiti on the abutments that they have been painted a solid yellow to cover it all up.

Outside of the tunnel, I cross into Marlborough. There is little damage for the next mile, as there is less forest and more open parkland. This section was opened in 2003 and has two rows of 25 maples bordering the trail. Every tree is undamaged.

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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