Connection between Minuteman Bikeway and Minuteman National Historical Park

Harvey Bingham and Colleen Haggerty
members of the Lexington Bicycle Advisory Committee.
1997-01-27

A route from the Minuteman Bikeway east of the Lexington Material Recycling Facility through the Katahdin Wood Conservation Lands to the crossing of Wood Street is proposed.

Summary

Our objective is to provide improved connections from the north for walking and "fat-tire" bicycling using nearby town lands to the Minuteman National Historic Park (MMNHP) and their 5.5-mile interpretive trail. Currently, access from Lexington Center on Massachusetts Avenue uses that busy road, with steep grades taxing to cyclists. Access from the north is now limited, using narrow, twisty, and busy Wood St.

We wish to make better use of the existing trail indicated on the 1996 Town of Lexington Street and Precinct Map, that runs southwest from the Minuteman Bikeway (MMBW) just to the west of Rt 128/I-95 along the east edge of the Lexington Recycling Facility. This trail connects southward with other existing trails in the meadows of Katahdin Wood.

A second northern access is from near the Hartwell Avenue junction with Wood St.

The southern ends would use access on town-owned land to local side-streets and portions of Wood St, or possibly cross Wood St and use more of the land under the power line.

1. Northern Ends

Two accesses for the north end are useful.

1.1. The Minuteman Bikeway (MMBW) just west of Rt 128 / I-95.

For this we recommend a new graded path from the west end of the guard rail that extends for 575 feet west of the overpass. To get to grade level requires a descent of about 12 feet from MMBW. A shorter ramp would need to be 120 feet at 5% grade, and require a cut in the guard rail near 128.

1.2. Access from near Wood St and Hartwell Ave

Access to the existing path in the meadow on the west side of the wooded area.

1.2.1. Use the town conservation land access to Wood St into Katahdin Woods.

That access currently has only a trace trail through the woods. It would need to descend about 30 feet in 250 feet, with a steepest grade of over 10% to get to the present path [see 2.4 below].

1.2.2. Use the gate access at the bottom of the Katahdin Wood Apartments

This access has an initial 4-foot bank that leads thereafter to a trail with modest descent, about 5% at worst. The work by Bob Sawyer to get bicycle paths along each side of Hartwell Avenue might consider how to connect to that existing trail.

1.2.3. Easement from the end of the parking area at 110 Hartwell Avenue

If this could be granted the access could avoid that descent.

1.2.4. Expect a board-walk connection over wetlands

This could be imposed as a condition of sale for the property now for sale on Hartwell north of 110 Hartwell.

2. Southern Ends

Six easements owned by the town from the Katahdin Wood conservation lands to streets exist. These side streets all use Wood St. for the final connection. Wood St. does have a 5-foot sidewalk appropriate for walkers, but not particularly so for cyclists.

We discuss these north-south, and give our recommendations for their consideration.

2.1. Near Hartwell Ave

[discussed above as a northern access 1.2.1]

2.2. Use the existing path at the cul-de-sac ending on Bates Road

That path has a Conservation Land sign allowing non-motorized vehicle use. The path descends a steep grade through the woods, about 10%. That path shows erosion now, and should have some maintenance. The Bates Rd access to Wood St. is a 6% grade. It is almost across from the Lincoln Lab entrance and bus stop, so there is some congestion and competition from other vehicles. This would be 0.8 miles on the dirt paths, and 0.8 miles on roads. At rush hour there is a traffic control officer to let traffic out of Lincoln Labs. Not recommended, choice 3.

2.3. Use the existing easement at the "T" on Springdale Rd.

This easement is absorbed into abutters property, and is a 6% grade. Springdale is a steep grade 11%. It goes into wetlands, with a drainage brook underneath. No trails get near it. Not recommended, choice 4.

2.4. Use the existing easement to Conestoga Road

Enter at the outside of the bend in the "J" of Conestoga Rd. Currently this land is maintained by the abutters with no evident access to the road, though a dirt path comes up to the back between the yards. There is a connecting path to the main trail over a double culvert. This is the option with the least grade. This would be 1.0 miles on the dirt paths and 0.6 miles on roads. Recommended, choice 2.

2.5. Use the easement eastward onto Holton Road

That is a steep grade, through woods, currently planted to obscure the easement at the road by the abutters. It does not appear to be an effective access point, although it would provide the least need to traverse Wood St, about 0.3 miles. Not recommended, choice 5.

2.6. Follow the entire length of the indicated trail

The town map shows a trail ending where the Boston Edison power line crosses Wood St. This trail averages about one foot above grade level for most of its length. However, near the southern end, north of the dogleg in the power line, there is a disconnect into wetlands. The footpath apparently encroaches on the rear of the abutters properties on Patterson Rd.

A no-trespassing sign is on one of those properties, indicating that the Boston Edison power line easement ends at the edge of the trees. If so, that will require a wetlands boardwalk path of perhaps 150 feet, not crossing any active stream, then on the path up the rise and following the power line to Wood St. The grade on the trail now going up the rise is about 10%. In that section, there is a bit of erosion and some gravel was once used to retard it. One place a small culvert would avoid crossing a drainage ditch. There is adequate property width for grade reduction to 5% with two switchbacks.

3. Terminus in Minuteman National Historic Park

The end of the MMNHP Interpretive Trail is on Old Mass Ave near Fiske Hill. It runs westward on the north side of Old Mass.

3.1. Wood Street

The above egress points from Katahdin Wood all use some part of Wood St. Wood St is narrow with some close banks, obscure sight lines, entering side-roads and driveways, and much fast traffic. It is hardly ideal for bicycling. A five-foot wide sidewalk runs along the east side of it that is suitable for walkers. It is less so for bicycling, as there are dips for many driveways, and several utility poles in the middle of it. In winter those poles prevent complete snow-plowing, with snow left piled about them. Temporary solution.

One place on Wood St. where the site line is adequate is where the power line crosses. That would be a good place for a marked sidewalk crossing.

3.2. Power Line Crossing

We note that the power line west of Wood St is on private land. That land is within the MMNHP border, but not now owned by it. If an additional easement could be negotiated under the power line, a trail through there and connecting into the MMNHP along the north and west of the hidden pond would make a nice off-road trail into the park. A trace trail exists through there at this time, though No-Trespassing signs at Wood, and briars discourage its use. There is no evident trail sufficient to allow the power company access to their power line towers, as there is in Katahdin Woods. The west bank of Wood St there is cut about 10 feet from grade, so some path grading would be needed, or access at the south side using the dotted trace road shown on the contour map might be possible. Recommend exploring.

3.3. Woodpark Circle

To the west of Wood Street the property owners totally surround Woodpark Circle, so it does not appear to provide any potential access. Not practical.

3.4. Fairview Avenue

Another alternative is to use the unaccepted Fairview Ave to cut 0.2 miles off the portion on Wood St. That crossing through the residential area is likely to make those residents unhappy.

3.4.1. Southern end of Fairview

This access is steep, rutted, and currently an unattractive shortcut. Not recommended.

3.4.2. Fairview Ave onto Hayward Ave and Bonair Ave

Turning from Fairview is a bit better paved, and has less grade, but goes through more of that residential area. Not recommended.

4. We propose to the Lexington Conservation Commission:

4.1. Approve Use of the Connecting Paths Through Town Lands

Cross from the Minuteman Bikeway (MMBW) just west of Rt. 128/I-95 to Wood Street. That will provide bicycle or walking routes to connect with the 5.5 mile interpretive trail being constructed by the Minuteman National Historic Park, and planned for dedication July 4, 1997, and possibly later completion this fall.

4.2. Ramp from Bikeway

Allow construction of a 400-foot long dirt ramp angling off the south side of the MMBW from the west end of the existing guard rail and dropping down 12 feet to connect to the north end of that dirt path. Now, access to that path requires crossing the guard rail and descending the steep bank. A cyclist must carry a bike over (or evidently more commonly slide it under) the guard rail and immediately go down the steep bank. Significant erosion has occurred in two places where this regularly occurs. The DPW filled this erosion a year ago, and it will soon need refilling. The erosion of the MMBW berm is a safety hazard. The risk going up and down the bank is also a hazard. A ramp would eliminate this ongoing maintenance problem. It would also make evident that there is the connecting path.

4.3. Wetlands Crossings

An additional project would avoid the two existing detours in the existing trail from over the sewer line onto the right-of-way for Rt 128/I-95 crossings over Kiln Brook. Those detours are about 300 feet and 150 feet. The paths on the right-of-way are about 5 to 8 feet below the highway and 15 feet outside the guardrail. Add a 30-foot wooden bridge over Kiln Brook on the existing path that runs over the sewer line. This bridge would be similar to those added off the Garfield playground over the brook to the Pine Meadows Golf Course. The trail actually goes straight to the brook, and is raised above grade level about a foot on either side. There are two additional places where culverts might be needed, though not crossing running streams. Some trail clearing would be required.

4.4. Full Length Path

The most ambitious project would allow use of the length of the path in the town land, bringing the total path closer to the MMNHP where the power line crosses Wood St.

4.4.1. South End

Re-grade with two switchbacks the trail as it goes up the rise to get to Wood St. from under the power line poles where the power line changes direction.

4.4.2. Wetland Boardwalk

Add a boardwalk path about 150 feet long over wetlands, not a stream, at the south-west end of this area that would provide access on the power line easement to get to Wood Street. It may be possible to adjust the xisting grade there and shorten that boardwalk, parallel to the path through the rear of the abutters private properties on Patterson that is now being used by trespassers to avoid that stretch.

Appendix A. Trail, Woods, and Fields Assessment

The primary trail as shown on the Conservation Map of Lexington goes from the MMBW southwest through the eastern edge of the Lexington Material Recycling Facility, into the Katahdin Wood, which encompasses the Kiln Brook wet-lands area. That eastern-most path runs along 128 and is flat, mostly on top of a sewer line whose manhole covers are on or to the side of the trail at path-level. This trail has dirt surface, about 5 to 8 feet wide, with some roots sticking up into it. Its edges are woods, light undergrowth, or briars.This trail seems wide enough to provide emergency or maintenance vehicle access for most of the power line easement as well. The only way such a vehicle could get to the trail would be through the Lexington Recycling Facility from which there is a path into it.

We believe that bike use in the Recycling Facility is undesirable. The ground is unstable, and often wet. Also, the police firing range is there, and someone might be down-range when it is in use. A No-Trespassing sign on that connecting path should be sufficient to discourage that use. A gate may be needed.

The trail parallels 128, so it is fairly noisy in winter when there is no vegetation. Noise is less a problem the rest of the year. Auto fumes are notable, but noticeably less than on the MMBW overpass of 128.

The current crossings of the two branches of Kiln Brook use the Rt. 128 right-of-way, bypassing the existing trail segments, to the west of where the branches join, about 500 feet west of 128. A single 30-foot bridge would be required to span the joined Kiln Brook. One culvert would also be needed.

In Katahdin Wood there are about 2 miles of mountain-bike paths over a length of about 1.3 miles in a total area involved of about 125 acres. Some paths go through woods, others in meadows. The paths on the west side of the open area do not go the entire length of the town land, as wet-lands intrude. These paths are hilly, so provide some challenge for the cyclist.

At the cul-de-sac ending Bates Road there is a Lexington Conservation Land sign posted at the path entrance. That path leads to a path through the woods. Going north remains in the woods, and is reasonably level, though there is no particularly well-defined path. Another path descends into the meadow. It drops off sharply, a 12% grade, with definite ruts and signs of erosion.

At the southern end is a loop of paths. A bridge and culvert cross the stream. Wetlands there between the power line towers at the dog-leg and North St. prevent complete path traversal to where it crosses Wood St. On the west side path off that loop are several off-shoot paths that appear to go into backyards of abutters. These paths are grass, and do seem to be actively mowed by the abutters.

In the meadow areas there are many brambles, and a few 1- to 3-year-old white pines coming up.

Appendix B. New England Mountain Bike Association Interest

The New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) provides some trail maintenance and encourages safe and sane use of the paths they ride. They see this small connector as an important link to a wider variety of trails accessible by bicycle. NEMBA currently provides patrol service by volunteers in the Middlesex Fells. Colleen Haggerty is an active member of NEMBA.

From: George Adams
GeorgeA@trellix.com

To: "'Harvey Bingham'" <info@hbingham.com>
Cc: "'bod@nemba.org'" <bod@nemba.org>
Subject: RE: nemba help in fixing a MMBW<-->MMNHP trail.
Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 16:58:50 -0500

As you may recall, I promised to take this up with the NEMBA board. And we did discuss the matter. The result of our discussion is that NEMBA will be glad to support this project in several ways:

  1. supply literature on trail etiquette.
  2. get a list of NEMBA members in the Lincoln, Bedford, Lexington, Waltham area to whom we could send a postcard when we need a few bodies for trail work or to speak up at meetings and hearings.
  3. Supply a "trail boss", namely me, for one or two special maintenance day projects over the course of the year. I volunteered because I am excited about this project, especially in light of what an extensive and valuable connection it will establish for biking. Trail bosses are just people who have had training in leading safe construction and maintenance of sustainable trials. I have not had this training yet but will get it before any action is likely to be taken on the proposal.
  4. publicize this project in the NEMBA News, a circulation of about 700 distributed over New England but mostly eastern Mass.
  5. consult on scheduling of work days to avoid presenting our volunteer pool with conflicting choices between other trail work projects or major mountain biking events.
  6. consult on appropriate signage that would encourage respectful use of the trail.

Beyond this, I will be glad to :

  1. work on the contacts with Hanscom and Minute Man Voc. Tech if you don't have someone on the project already who feels like trying to develop resources at those institutions. I would have to become a lot better informed about the project of course to work effectively in that role but I think it could be an important positive with the Lexington officials. Let me know.
  2. WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT [people have such short memories its a waste to do this work too early] approach all the local bike shops (and it will be a pleasure for me!) about supporting this project with at least a poster in the window. Since they stand to benefit from it, I expect I might browbeat a few of the stores into coughing up some rewards such as water bottles, patch kits etc., that could be used as inducements to get a bigger crew out on the days when heavier construction work is called for (e.g., putting in water bars on steeper sections of trail) I guess I'll just have to see what course the trail will take before we know if any of that sort of work is called for.

George Adams

Appendix C Minuteman National Historic Park Construction and Cost Information

Boardwalks over wetlands are being constructed, 5 feet 7 inches wide, with surface of 2x8 pressure-treated lumber set to cross the path, There are no gaps between boards. The prototype for these boardwalks is the design in the Lexington fitness trail. The posts, end-ties, and kick-rails are of made of "plastic wood", a recycled materials that has no arsenic to leach into the wet-lands. The posts are driven with pile-driver so have negligible fill effect on the surroundings. They go down 3 to 4 feet. [I question that 3 feet is below frost line?] They have found that depth gets through silt to solid soil. The boardwalks where they cross active streams have bridges with side-railings, otherwise kick-rails, effectively a 2x4 set on 2x4 spacers. The end-ties, the size of rail-road ties, are used at the ends of each boardwalk. The cost for this construction is $120/foot. Bridge construction is $200/foot.

Stone dust is the surface planned for the interpretive trail. It is a mixture of fine gravel (the stone dust) and Portland cement. It sets up into a low-maintenance surface.

In most places the trail is 7 feet 10 inches wide, with a 10 inch gravel base. Cost $11.75/foot. Some places have 16 inch gravel base at $16/foot. Some portions of the trail are 5 feet wide, with 10 inch gravel base at $9/foot.

The interpretive trail is designed for wheelchair use. Thus they tried to have a maximum grade of 5%, in keeping with Americans with Disabilities Act guidance. A couple of portions of historic significance have 8% grade maximum. Also, a 5% grade is the maximum that seems to withstand erosion damage.

Appendix D. Contacts

The contact for the Minuteman National Historical Park is Dan Detillio +1 617 484 6156. [Dan is no longer there 2003-06-09]

A contact for Boston Edison, their real estate specialist, is Bob Watjen +1 617 424 3106.

Bob indicates we should make a formal request to Boston Edison for use of the land under their right-of-way. He believes that they may own much of the area under it. They are quite happy to encourage local interest in, care of, and use of land under the right-of-way. They do mow it every 3-4 years. The easement over private land west of Wood Streed doesn't give Boston Edison rights to allow a trail through it. We'd need to talk with the owner, who has built a home on the south edge of that land.

A contact in the Fairview Road residential area is Nancy Englis Haywood. (I cannot verify this name or find a phone number under that listing in Lexington.)

Contacts in the New England Mountain Bike Association in addition to Colleen Haggerty are:

Harvey Bingham +1 781-862-6908 email: info@hbingham.com

Colleen Haggerty email: Colleen_Haggerty@millipore.com