Time for our first day on the pitch this season, so naturally we're going to dress for January Camp to sit outdoors for an hour. Ah, spring.
Ordinarily, an early spring day would be a great time to take a run on your nearby rail trail. During the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th, the United States developed a vast network of many thousands of miles of rail.
But like all things, over time that eroded, and after WWII we decided to focus on the interstate highway system, and the rail network began a precipitous decline. Take a look around your neighborhood - you've probably got an abandoned rail line of some sort within walking distance.
Sometime during the 1960s, a movement began to restore those abandoned rail lines to some kind of public use. For the most part, they were flat, not many sharp curves, and often went near city centers or major attractions - what better than to ride bikes on it?
Over time, more and more lines were converted back to public use. In 1992, a local route became the 500th rail trail in the US. It goes from the MBTA station in Cambridge paralleling Massachusetts Avenue all the way through Arlington, Lexington, and Concord. You might know this as the "Battle Road", and it's usually full of bikes, skaters, walkers and strollers from the instant the last snow melts until it fills back up again.
Sounds great, right? But of course, there's opposition to these things. We all know them - Not In MY Backyard. Somebody, usually a vocal minority, opposes things for the common good on the grounds that "I don't like it." Massachusetts has a long history of such things that I won't bore you with...but I will mention one, and this group has sparked my intense hatred of NIMBYs for much of the past 20 years or so.
Next to Lexington and Concord is Hanscom Field, in the neighboring town of Bedford. In the middle 1990s, a small outfit started commuter flights between there and Teterboro airport in New Jersey. They were never able to make any money at it, and of course they were opposed by significant numbers of people in the neighboring communities who were shocked - SHOCKED! to find they lived next to an active airport and Air Force base. I always hoped the President would transfer a tactical fighter wing there, but that's a story for another day. You probably know of the NIMBYs greatest triumph here - we could have had an Olympics. But we're not.
But to make like Stephen King and wrap it up in two sentences...west of here lie the exclusive bedroom communities of Weston, Wayland, and Sudbury. These towns are full of expensive homes, vast fields and open space, and not much else. Of course there's an abandoned rail line through there that used to connect Northampton and Boston.
For the past 20 years there's been a movement to convert the 104-mile length of the old line to something called the Mass Central Rail Trail
. Almost since the instant it was announced, those exclusive communities announced opposition plans to it. Three or Four years ago now, the Rail Trail group decided to move forward with the trail where it could, and bypass those towns where it couldn't. (I myself am an abutter; the proposed trail passes within 100 yards of my back door here in Waltham.)
Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston were satisfied and smug with themselves until Eversource saw the abandoned rail line running through those towns and thought it would be a great place to put high-voltage electric transmission lines.
Bet that rail trail is sounding pretty good now, eh?