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MassTrails Program Announces $11 Million in Grants for 68 Trail Projects

The state has announced $11.6 million in funding for 68 local trail construction and enhancement projects across the Commonwealth.

A freshly-paved trail through a suburban neighborhood. Newly-planted trees line the edge of the path, and to the right is a new wooden fence. In the middle distance is an old train station with the sign "Waltham Highlands"

Newly-planted trees and shrubs line the new segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail in Waltham in June 2023.

On Wednesday, state officials gathered on the Billerica Town Common to announce $11.6 million in funding for 68 local trail construction and enhancement projects.

The funding comes from the state's MassTrails team, an inter-agency collaboration between the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), MassDOT, and municipalities.

The program, which announced its first round of grants in 2019, has proven to be remarkably popular. Lawmakers and private philanthropists have more than doubled the program's funding from $5 million in 2019 to $11.4 million last year.

Even with that increased funding, though, the program represents less than half of one percent of MassDOT's annual spending on highway projects. And this year's funding level is a reduction from last year's when inflation is taken into account.

This year's grant winners gathered to celebrate the awards in Billerica, where MassTrails committed $472,000 to finish design, engineering, and permitting for the proposed Yankee Doodle Path.

Ellen Rawlings, who began advocating for the path in 1995 when she joined the Billerica Select Board, said that the MassTrails grant funding could put the project on track to begin construction next year.

"There's been a lot of back-and-forth about it over the years, but people have always been supportive. The current Select Board has been fantastic," Rawlings said.

The Yankee Doodle is one of several grant awards that aim to fill in gaps in the state's new "Priority Trails Network."

A map of Massachusetts highlighting long-distance trails that MassDOT hopes to connect across the state. Those routes are highlighted as yellow lines and include north-south routes in the Berkshires from Pittsfield to North Adams, in the Connecticut River Valley from Westfield to Northampton and from Northampton to Springfield, two east-west routes from Palmer to Boston, a route along Cape Cod, and a network of routes to connect gateway cities in eastern Mass. to Boston.
A screenshot of MassDOT's interactive "priority trails network" map. Courtesy of MassDOT.

When it's built, the Yankee Doodle path will effectively extend the existing Minuteman Bikeway north from Bedford into Billerica via Bedford's existing Narrow Gauge Trail. Conceptual extensions to the north will connect the trail to Lowell and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Other notable grant awards include:

  • $500,000 for the City of Haverhill to build its Riverside Park Connector, a 0.4-mile shared-use pathway along the Merrimack River.
  • $200,000 for the Town of Lynnfield to design and engineer a 2.7-mile rail trail from Wakefield to the Peabody town line. The path could eventually link into Peabody's Independence Greenway and the longer Border to Boston trail network.
  • $493,000 for Wachusett Greenways to construct a 2.1-mile segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail in Holden.
  • $500,000 for the City of Gardner in central Massachusetts to build a pathway connectionalong the west side of Crystal Lake to link its downtown with the North Central Pathway. When complete, there will be a 16-mile off-street path connecting the downtown areas of Gardner with Winchendon, its neighbor to the northwest. The North Central Path also connects in Winchendon to the Ware River Rail Trail and to the Monadnock Branch Rail Trail, which continues to Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
  • $320,000 for the Town of Southampton to design and engineer a 3.5-mile extension of the Manhan Rail Trail, which currently connects Easthampton to Northampton in the Connecticut River Valley. The project would fill one of the last gaps in the 81-mile Farmington Canal trail corridor between Northampton and New Haven, Conn.

MassTrails will start accepting new grant applications for more projects later this fall, with a deadline of February 1, 2024 for next year's round of grants.

Find a full list of this year's grant recipients here.

Previous MassTrails coverage:

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