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Dedham Voters Narrowly Reject Advisory Rail-Trail Referendum

The proposed greenway would link downtown Dedham (left) to the Readville commuter rail station in Boston. A short segment of the trail within the boundaries of the City of Boston has already been built. Courtesy of the Friends of the Dedham Heritage Rail Trail.

Voters in Dedham narrowly rejected an advisory referendum over the weekend on the Dedham Heritage Rail Trail, a proposed 2-mile connection between downtown Dedham, the town’s schools and the Readville commuter rail station.

The referendum asked Dedham voters whether they “favor, if there is no cost to Dedham taxpayers for design and construction, the creation of the so-called Dedham Heritage Rail Trail on the 10-acre parcel of public land that runs from East Street to the Boston/Readville line?”

Out of 6,405 ballots cast in the local election, 3,011 (47 percent) voted "yes" and 3,260 (51 percent) voted "no." Turnout was reportedly the highest it's been for a local election in a decade.

Dedham’s trail corridor passes through the campuses of several schools and associated recreational facilities, including the high school, Avery Elementary School, and a town swimming pool. The trail corridor is currently walkable with a rough pathway, but advocates are hoping to upgrade it with an ADA-accessible paved surface, lighting, and other improvements.

The vote is certainly a setback, but other successful trail projects across the Commonwealth have suffered worse defeats, only to be built in the end. In the late 1990s, for instance, voters in the wealthy suburb of Weston rejected by a much larger margin a proposal to build out their local segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail; last summer, that same trail section finally opened to walkers and bike riders.

In a press statement released the day after the election, trail supporters pledged that they would continue to advocate for the trail and win more supporters to their cause.

"We’re very encouraged by the expanding base of enthusiastic supporters, and, most importantly, by over 3,000 thousands YES votes cast yesterday," wrote the Friends of the Dedham Heritage Rail Trail on Facebook. "This effort has brought together an amazing, creative, committed, cheerful, smart and fun group of folks from all across town. We count our blessings to have met so many new, wonderful people working for such a positive, purposeful end."

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