Townsend April 7, 2006 


Rails to Trails project on May 10 ballot
By Caitlyn Kelleher Journal Staff Writer

Voters will have a chance to express their opinion on a proposal to bring the Rail Trail to town.

Selectman Robert Plamondon advocated adding a non-bidding referendum to the ballot on May 10 regarding the controversial issue. Plamondon wants residents to simply express their opinion.

"I think the whole town should get the chance to vote on it," he said. "It's a test balloon."

Plamondon supports the proposal to replace the abandon railroad tracks from Harbor Village to Depot Street in the center of town with a bike path.

"I think it would be beneficial to the town," he said.

The special election on May 10 is primarily to fill the seat on the Board of Selectmen that Peter Collins is vacating. Collins announced in February that he would resign this spring because of health reasons.

Plamondon said he wants the question asked on a ballot instead of at the annual town meeting for two reasons. He thinks more people will have the chance to vote on the question and he thinks that people will be more honest in their opinions.

"You aren't worried about what your neighbor will think," he said.

The proposed Squannacook River Rail Trial is 2.5 miles long. It would start at the Harbor Village Shopping Center - across the street from North Middlesex Regional High School and near the town line with Groton. It is designed to run along the river to the center of town.

The abandon track is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which is willing to lease the property to the town for $1 for 85 years, committee member William Rideout said. The tracks used to be owned by the Boston-Maine Rail Company but the company went bankrupt, he said.

"The last train ran frieght in 1981," Rideout said.

The Rails to Trails project is a nationwide effort to convert the old railroad lines that crisscrossed the country. The federal government pays 80 percent of the cost of converting the land and the state picks up the remaining 20 percent.

"It means no capital outlay for the town," Plamondon said.

The feasibility committee was started in 2002.

The committee members have talked with abutters, trail designers in other towns, as well as area police chiefs, said Rideout. They have tried to alleviate concerns and work with the abutters, he said.

Caitlyn Kelleher can be reached at (978) 827-3386, ext. 15, or e-mail: