104 miles-----connecting 24 communities -----Boston to Northampton
An intrepid adventure traveler can still find traces of it in the wilderness. A 104 mile railroad line was shattered by a hurricane in 1938. The line once stretched from downtown Boston to Northampton, MA. Now, almost seventy years later, dedicated volunteers, property owners and our government agencies and business partner in 24 communities are working to dig it out and open it up. Instead of trains there will be tourists and locals, bed & breakfast inns, cross-country skiers, bicyclists, hikers, joggers, and babies in baby carriages.
It won't be easy. While much of the old railway is passable to a dedicated traveler today, in part the ownership is not clear. The railway has faded so far from memory that many maps don't even show the former route. A number of the bridges were torn down for scrap. Some of the land was sold and neighboring landowners in other areas encroachments seem to have occurred - taking advantage of the unclear ownership in some communities.
However, volunteers can work wonders. About 25 miles are now open with more scheduled to open soon. A cooperative effort between the state, local government, and real estate owners can help to open the rest.
Many landowners are quite positive about allowing a trail to pass near or over their property. Real estate agents are particularly enthusiastic, because they know that such features contribute to quality of life and vibrant communities. But rail trails are unfamiliar to many others. And education effort is required to help people see the benefits, evaluate the experience of other communities, and rationally weigh the costs. We hope that eventually every property owner and resident will support the project.
Long trails provide numerous recreational and transportation opportunities, both for short trips and for longer adventures. The vision of an east-west trail linking Massachusetts is within reach. The Mass Central Rail Trail will join numerous existing parks and conservation lands, in effect making them bigger and more viable.
The Rail Trail will provide an east-west counterpart to the existing Appalachian Trail, and connections between the existing north-south Metacomet, Midstate and Bay Circuit Trails. Near Boston the trail will provide a true urban "Non-Motorized Central Artery" with no need for a "Big Dig" and the MassCentral Rail Trail will be the major Massachusetts link in the East Coast Greenway which will run from Calais Maine to Key West Florida.