Letter to the Editor: Reformatory Trail Modifications, and Potential Arborist Walk

~ Submitted by Terry Gleason

Recently, I enjoyed a 2-hour walk with a professional arborist (a friend of a friend) on the Town’s Reformatory RT. [Signup info for an arborist walk at the end of this letter]. The arborist clearly had a love of nature and conveyed how important it is to see the ‘woods’ as a whole and not just as individual trees.

We noted the common maples, pines, and oaks, a cherry tree, the invasive Norway Maple (harmful to the native New England forest and the important ‘edge environments’. The arborist recommended Tom Wessels’ (ecology) books to envision the history of the woods, e.g, where a pasture might have been, revealed by the mix and age of trees. We noted a splendid large pine at Lavender LN parking lot that should be saved with a trail modification if it’s currently in the 22 ft right-of-way.

“Clear Cutting [4.3 acres of trees]?” Where did that misleading expression come from – social media? Can we blame it on our neighbors to the west?

The Reformatory dirt trail is about 1.7 miles long. After the annual DPW summer brush clearing, the trail varies in width from 10 to 22 ft. Using a conservative 12 ft average width estimate, there are approximately 2.3 acres of ‘clear trail’ on the existing Reformatory. Include the service road area by Hartwell Rd, then it’s over 3 acres of ‘cleared trail’ today.

The additional cleared space needed is largely because Bedford residents at the Public Design Reviews requested it. Joggers wanted stone dust sides (3 ft. each side). A second access to the underpass (northwest side) as well as improvements to the parking lots to separate cars from the trail users were requested. These are all very reasonable trade-offs for safety. Everyone agrees that the sidewalk and sidepath additions to Railroad Ave are wonderful additions and a bargain for the Town.

Signup for TBD ‘forest walk/talks’ on Reformatory Trail, Pending interest and availability of the arborist, this may be advertised through the COA and/or the Rec. Dept (Fall). If you would like to be put on an ‘interested’ list, send an email to [email protected] with the Subject line: “Arborist Walk”. Groups will be kept small to maximize interaction; Expect a fee – young, working arborists need to be paid for their time!

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McClain, John
June 29, 2022 4:36 pm

– 1.7 miles * 12 feet: 2.5 acres
– 80 miles (of road in Bedford MA) * 24 feet: ~230 acres
– Size of Great Road Shopping Center Parking Lot: ~6.6 acres 
– Runways at Hanscom: ~95 acres
– Elm Brook Conservation Area: > 19 acres
– Total conservation land in Bedford MA: 1,870 acres

Julia Whiteneck
June 27, 2022 8:35 pm

I think part of the project would clear trees on Loomis Stree and Railroad Ave too, so those spaces would have to be included. I think people have lost track of the fact that there have been multiple hearings about the Reformatory trail project over the past dozen years so thank you for mentioning that those people who spoke up got their requests included in the plan.

Julie Brill
June 25, 2022 10:58 am

I love Tom Wessel’s work and have been lucky enough to go on multiple guided walks with him. His book Reading the Forested Landscape changed my experience of every New England walk in the woods I do. I recommend it to everyone.
The Bedford town website lists 4.34 acres as the amount of land that would be cleared in multiple places. For example, you’ll find it here under Conservation Commission 3/21/2022:
And again here in this DPW letter: https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6866/f/uploads/mmbw_extension_tree_removal_cover_memo.pdf
Both invasive and non-invasive trees contribute to slowing down climate change, form the canopy that shades the path, and provide animal habitat. The Lexington Select Board voted in 2010 to make the Norway maple (a non-native tree) a protected tree for these reasons. The extensive clearing and grubbing called for in the state plan would open the area to invasive native species including poison ivy and invasive non-native species including Japanese knotweed.

August 27, 2022 7:47 am
Reply to  Julie Brill

Displacing the wildlife currently populating the path and adjacent woods has already driven animals to State Highway 62 and residential areas.Destroying Bedford’s sanctuary path will be an irreversible loss in the name of progress.

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