Greater Lowell and the Twin Cities area are fortunate to have several walking paths and bike routes in various stages of completion, serving as valued recreational outlets for their citizens.
The Squannacook River Rail Trail is the latest to partially open to the public.
On Saturday, Squannacook Greenways Inc. officially opened the first stretch of that 3.7-mile path in Townsend, which eventually will run between that community and West Groton.
Phase one spans 1.1 miles from Depot Street to Old Meeting House Road.
Squannacook Greenways President Peter Cunningham said the opening of phase one was “incredibly gratifying,” and noted to reach the point of opening the trail was a challenge, requiring about 18 years of dedication on the part of all involved.
“I think it’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to build rail trails,” Cunningham said. “Once they’re built everybody loves them to death, but trying to get them built, trying to get adequate funding to make sure it happens, sometimes is a real struggle. And then once they’re built, maintaining them can also be a struggle.”
In 2015, Squannacook Greenways secured a 99-year lease from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority for the right of way on which the trail is being constructed.
Once the lease was approved, Squannacook Greenways then sought funding from state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the local community.
The first leg of the trail, constructed where trains once passed through, is open for bicyclists and pedestrians. The next phase will continue from Old Meeting House Road and continue to the Townsend Harbor Church.
Hurdles encountered by Squannacook Greenways aren’t unique to that group. Cunningham highlighted the ongoing Bruce Freeman Rail Trail project and the length of time that’s taken.
That multicommunity project, named after the late Chelmsford state representative who championed that cause, has been discussed and planned by local officials since Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office.
When finished, the trail will provide walking and bike paths starting in Lowell and continuing through Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury and around Middlesex County.
Construction on the Lowell Connector Trail, a Freeman Rail Trail spur, began over the summer.
The envisioned two-month project will create a 1,200-foot-long, 10-foot-wide paved asphalt path that will be fully accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The trail, which will run along Lowell’s River Meadow Brook, will take advantage of an underpass under the Lowell Connector highway, “strengthening the connection between neighborhoods on both sides,” according to a press release from Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue’s office.
Once completed, the Concord River Greenway and all phases of the Connector Trail will fill one of the last remaining gaps in the 200-mile Bay Circuit trail.
Another connecting urban walkway, the Twin Cities Rail Trail, will link neighboring Fitchburg and Leominster.
Phase one of the 4.5-mile paved project, which will connect downtown Fitchburg and Leominster from Mechanic Street in Leominster to the Intermodal Transportation Center on Water Street in Fitchburg, aims to be completed by March 2022.
Once the first phase is finished, the trail can be used from the Route 12/13 intersection at Main and Mill streets in Leominster to Fourth Street in Fitchburg, just past the Fifth Street bridge.
Phase two of the estimated $18 million project is scheduled to begin next year and will extend the trail at each end into both cities’ downtowns.
The mix of rustic and urban landscapes contained in these pathways provides the public with an ideal way to exercise the enjoyment of the outdoors.
Read More:A region dotted with a sampling of trails