New MassTrails Grant Program Funds 71 Trail Projects on a Shoestring Budget
A new statewide grant program has released its first round of awards, stretching $5 million in state and federal funds to advance dozens of trail projects across the state.
MassTrails, a relatively new collaboration between the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and MassDOT, aims to fill gaps in the state’s growing network of off-street multi-use paths and trails by providing matching funds to local fundraising efforts.
The program’s budget is extremely modest: at a total cost of $5 million, these 71 grants will cost taxpayers less than a MassDOT project to replace the lighting at the I-93/Route 3 interchange in Braintree. But these funds will leverage an additional $9 million in matched funds and in-kind contributions from private and local sources, and the connections these new trails make will considerably increase the value and utility of existing trails across the state.
In a state where trails and bike lanes often dead-end at town lines, MassTrails deserves credit for taking an inter-jurisdictional approach. At a press event announcing the grants in Lowell last month, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said, “we’re going to put our agencies together to think about where those gaps are and think about how we can work with all of you to get things done.”
Some of the bigger projects being funded with this year’s grants include:
- Several segments of the proposed Mass Central Rail Trail, including design work that would extend the “Fitchburg Cutoff” path from Alewife into Belmont village, design work for a 2.7 mile segment through downtown Waltham (also known as the “Wayside Trail”), construction work for a 1.9 mile segment in Holden, and construction of a 1.7 mile trail link between Ware and Hardwick.
- Ongoing design and engineering work for a proposed Westfield River Levee Trail, a 2-mile-long multi-use path along Westfield’s downtown riverfront.
- Feasibility studies for future extensions of the Somerville Community Path (currently under construction as part of the Green Line Extension project) to connect the new path to the Mystic River and Charles River trails networks.
- Design work for the first two segments of the proposed Bourne Rail Trail, a waterfront rail-with-trail that would extend the Cape Cod Canal Recreation Path southward along Buzzards Bay towards Falmouth (route pictured at right). Future phases could link to Falmouth’s “Shining Sea Bikeway” to create a continuous, 24-mile shared use pathway from Woods Hole to Sandwich.