Letter to the Editor: Supporting Keeping the Reformatory Branch Trail Undeveloped

~Submitted by Christina Carvey

As a near life-long Bedford resident, a mother of three young children, an animal- lover, and a cyclist, I’m writing to share my perspective on the Reformatory Branch Trail, and the proposed “improvements” (i.e. paving, widening, developing).

My family and I use the trail regularly, primarily for biking. With a trailer we ride to Chip In Farm for pumpkins and Christmas trees. We bike to Concord to get ice cream and watch the trains. I jog with my daughter as she rides from school. My husband and I rode to Emerson Hospital the morning our youngest was born. We love this path.

The Reformatory Trail is special. Its features set it apart from paved bike paths: the dense tree canopy; the proximity to nature and undeveloped space; the peace and calm of a less frenetic pace. Bikes travel more slowly here than on paved paths, and not in fast packs. Reformatory Trail users are generally congenial, attuned to their setting, and responsive to calls of, “On your left.” It’s never so mobbed on weekends that I fear for my children’s safety. Indeed, weekend family adventures on the Reformatory are relaxing; weekend trips on the paved Minuteman are not.

The Minuteman Extension project has morphed into something that would rob the Reformatory Trail of the qualities that make it so extraordinary, and replace it with something entirely different – the very wide, very paved, very developed Minuteman Bikeway Extension. It would take an existing shared-use path – already enjoyed by hikers, walkers, cross-country skiers, joggers, cyclists, commuters – and repurpose the land for those who prefer pavement. Bedford already has access to ten miles of paved Minuteman Bikeway. Let us save these two miles of smooth, flat trail for users who want a more nature-based experience. (Footnote 1)

This November 14, I encourage you to vote no at special town meeting on the article that would allow the Town to take the land by easement or eminent domain. Voters can prevent the bulldozing, and save Bedford’s gem – the Reformatory Trail. https://savereformatorytrail.org/

(Footnote 1) While it’s true Bedford has 30+ miles of other trails, those miles contain virtually no contiguous stretches of smooth, flat surface that can be readily traversed with a typical bicycle or stroller, or are friendly to pedestrians with limited mobility. The exception is the Narrow Gauge Trail – unfortunately, the Bicycle Advisory Committee is already planning to pave that one too. (https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6866/f/minutes/trails_committee-meeting_minutes_2021-01-14_virtual_meeting.pdf).

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Virginia Barbati
October 20, 2022 8:39 am

THANK YOU Christina for your beautiful letter. My family moved to Bedford in 1968. The Reformatory Trail was my back yard. It is truly special.

Prior to covid/remote working, I commuted by bike to Concord on this treasured path. Rain or shine, all year, when passable. When it’s unmanageable, I choose other routes. It’s that simple. A small price to pay to preserve this amazing gift. I’m now in my early 60s and I am still riding this path as often as I can.

BFT and MMT are great for what they offer. The reality is, paving changes the experience of a path. A paved path has it’s place. As does a dirt path. Why not support keeping BOTH in our community? BOTH can and should be available to our community.

This IS paving paradise to put up a parking lot. Check out proposed parking lot expansion at Lavender Lane which literally would cut into the trail to create a parking lot.

PLEASE SAVE THIS TREASURE and enjoy other already paved beauties.

Tim Bennett
October 20, 2022 3:03 pm

THANK YOU Virginia for your insightful comment. My family moved to Bedford in 2000. The Reformatory Trail was my back yard during Cross Country Season. It truly is special.
When I broke my foot and could not run, I exercised by bike to Concord on this treasured path. Rain or shine, all year, when passable. When it’s unmanageable, I was forced onto other routes, braving treacherous and wet conditions on main roads while constantly being splashed by fast moving cars. It’s that simple. A massive price to pay to preserve this gift. I’m now in my late teens and I am still riding this path as often as I can, however during the winter and for long periods after it rains, it is simply unusable.
BFT and MMT are great for what they offer. The reality is, paving improves the experience of a path. A paved path has it’s place. As does a dirt path. Why not support keeping BOTH in our community? BOTH can and should be available to our community. Which is why I believe paving this 1.8 mile stretch is the best decision, given the other 30+ miles of similar trails available in the community.
This IS NOT paving paradise to put up a parking lot. Check out proposed parking lot expansion at Lavender Lane which will have very little impact on the character of the trail, given the streets that already cross it and the DPW compound and it’s widely cut and paved section that far exceeds the scale of any change affected here.
PLEASE PAVE THIS TREASURE and enjoy other already natural beauties.

Frank Richichi
October 2, 2022 9:18 am

I have been using the Reformatory Branch as a hiking and biking trail since 1974. It is a wonderful trail that is often “rough around the edges”. I have used a mountain bike when the snow doesn’t prevent it. The Bedford stretch is muddy and unusable during mud season. In the stretch from Rt. 62 to the Concord line it is too narrow for a pedestrian and cyclist to pass. One needs to step off-trail. It is not nor can it be made to be ADA compliant without hard paving.
I am one of the volunteer staff who maintains the Great Meadows trails. We attempt to maintain a flat safe section on the stone dust Dike Trail. The path, bridges and he observation tower are not ADA compliant. It takes 2-3 months to repair the trails after seasonal flooding damage to make it safe for joggers and those not sure-of-foot.
The Narrow Gauge Trail was first evaluated for paving by the Bedford Friends of the Minuteman Bikeway in 1994. The Reformatory Branch was preferred as a link to Concord Center and Great Meadows.

Frank Richichi
October 3, 2022 8:40 pm
Reply to  Frank Richichi

The point I was making was that people looked at this a long time ago. The role of the Friends was to promote biking safety, educate people about the trail and promote ways to improve the experience. Then as now decisions are made at Town Meeting.

Christine Rabinowitz
September 29, 2022 10:11 pm

I’m am glad that your family has enjoyed the path, when our kids were young we enjoyed having the minuteman path as a safe alternative too. Now as a senior citizen, I find the reformatory trail difficult to traverse while using my cane. Haven’t you noticed the big rocks that dot the path? I need to keep my head down in order to walk that path. Safely. Haven’t you noticed that the path narrows in places so that even though someone yells “on your left” they need to slow to a snails pace and veer off the path to avoid colliding with me? And what about the couple who insisted on riding side by side and expected me to move off the path to let them pass? The canopy doesn’t cover the whole path in places, but there are many dead or dying trees that should come down to nourish the soil and allow those bigger trees to spread their branches to better provide a true canopy.
The reformatory trail serves a small fraction of our town as it exists now. Improving it allows for more inclusive use by all the citizens of Bedford. Paving paradise is not what is being proposed. Please try to pay attention to the facts.

September 29, 2022 12:37 pm

Thank you, Christina!

Julia Whiteneck
September 29, 2022 11:28 am

If the paved part of the trail is so disagreeable why is it so packed with pedestrians, strollers, and kiddy bikes? You can’t claim that the Reformatory trail is such a great resource when its usage can’t even compare to a trail you refuse to use. I think that the main point that everyone avoids, though, is that the vote is for the money for the Town to actually acquire the land of the trail. Right now, the Reformatory Branch Trail does not completely belong to the people of Bedford. A yes vote November 14 means that the citizens agree that we want the trial to belong to us.

Leah Devereaux
September 29, 2022 11:26 am

It is so beautiful that you have been able to enjoy this trail and go on so many family adventures. With the paving, you will still be able to use it in the same way and my family will also be able to enjoy with my husband who is a wheelchair user. We deserve to have access to adventures like your family has been able to experience.

Patty Dahlgren
September 29, 2022 11:14 am

Thank you Christina! Save Bedford’s gem is right! Bravo.

Mark Bailey
September 29, 2022 9:08 am

The project enhances safety, accessibility, and inclusiveness for more users for more of the season. Like the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, pictured, the Minuteman Extension features stone dust shoulders along most of the length for those who prefer a more natural experience. And like the BFT, the overhead canopy will quickly fill back in thanks to mature trees beyond the clearing line.

Only those of us on the East side of town have ready access to the Minuteman. The extension enables more users to benefit and leave their cars behind. As yet another climate-change-fueled record-breaking hurricane barrels down on fellow Americans in Florida, we should all pause to remember that 40% of Bedford’s Greenhouse Gas emissions come from transportation. If the project enables even one more Bedford resident to go car-free, it will more than offset the carbon sequestration impact of the planned clearing.

It’s true that the Bicycle Advisory Committee voted in February 2021 to explore a feasibility study for extending the paving of the NGT, which is currently paved from Loomis to Great Rd., to the Billerica line. However, that vote over a year and a half ago represents the entirety of the discussion to date and no further action has been taken. Learn facts at http://www.minuteman-extension.org

Mike Merrick
October 3, 2022 12:58 pm
Reply to  Mark Bailey

Mark, stop trying to “goad” more people to see your side. You have already “goaded” Concord and you “look forward to goading Billerica” to get what you want. Those are your words, not anyone elses. Exposure is going to have its consequences

Mike Merrick
October 4, 2022 1:32 pm
Reply to  Mark Bailey

Mark- You should understand the facts and history about hurricanes before suggesting in your narrative that by paving a 2 miles stretch in Bedford, we are reducing hurricane intensity.

Carolyn Savage
September 28, 2022 8:59 pm

Couldn’t have been any better put Christina!!! I will ABSOLUTELY be voting NO on paving the Reformatory trail.
Why are we always trying to (in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell)“Pave paradise and put up a parking lot“!!
-Carolyn Savage

Leanne Kearny
September 29, 2022 2:09 pm
Reply to  Carolyn Savage

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone?

Carolyn Savage
September 29, 2022 7:46 pm
Reply to  Leanne Kearny


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