Letter to the Editor: Wanting a Rail Trail for All

~Submitted by Leah Devereaux

What we want for Bedford: Inclusivity

Inclusivity Definition: the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.

When you read that definition, do you think of Bedford as an inclusive community? I say no, absolutely not.

How can Bedford become more accessible?
One major way is being a community who raises the voices of those with disabilities and speaks up for projects that improve accessibility.  A major project that would accomplish this is the Reformatory Branch Rail Trail updates. Does this solve the inequality toward those with disabilities? Absolutely not, but it is one step in the right direction.

Being inclusive is not passive, and as an advocate for this community, I ask you to take a look around our town and consider the accessibility for those with disabilities. Broken sidewalks, areas with no curb cuts, steep inclines, no accessible play space for disabled children. For my family, there is only one truly accessible outdoor space to be together and that is the Minuteman Trail. We deserve more. Opponents have spoken about the natural aspects of the trail being so important for mental health, and that it is also hugely important for the disabled community. Disabled children and adults deserve access to nature.

There are many improvements that are needed around town and a rail trail for all would be a major step in a positive direction for the disabled community. Please join my family in voting yes at Special Town Meeting on 11/14, for a rail trail for all.

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Frank Richichi
October 2, 2022 9:54 am

It is possible to create a non-asphalt hardpack covering on a flat surface that, if maintained and there is no severe weather can for some short period of time be ADA compliant. The difference between theory and practice is much greater in practice than in theory.
Rains, roots, weeds, hills, flooding and limited maintenance funds and staff are the reality. For this reason the state only funds asphalt. In Germany, Finland and The Netherlands where bike commuting year round is common, the dedicated bikeways are all paved.

Amelia Wayne-Diaz
October 3, 2022 6:40 am
Reply to  Frank Richichi

There are no roots impeding travel on this trail. It is already incredibly smooth with little maintenance. We certainly have the funds to make this trail ADA compliant with dirt or stone dust. And considering we are being asked to approve $1.6 M to take land from taxpayers for unnecessary widening and paving, the cost to maintain a natural trail is certainly the less expensive option for the town and Bedford taxpayers.

Mario Mendes
September 30, 2022 2:20 pm

I never measured it, but I’d guess about 1/2 of the trail portion that goes through Bedford has already been paved and accessible for a very long time. I moved to town 20 years ago and it was already paved then.

It is paved from the Depot Park all the way to Boston, with plenty of ADA compliant parking spaces at the park, a few feet away from where the paved part starts.

For at least the last 20 years, anyone in town with accessibility needs or not, have already been able to enjoy paved portions of the path as much as they chose to.

I’d rather see money spent on other accessibility projects in town instead.

Leah Devereaux
September 30, 2022 9:13 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

This project can start now, with money from the state. Other projects, which are also sorely needed, will take another 5-10 years to accomplish. I want Bedford more accessible now, for my family to enjoy and other disabled people in our town.

September 30, 2022 8:32 am

Thank you Leah! This is the top consideration for the trail. Followed by the ability to get Railroad Ave fixes funded by the state.

There are so many other natural trails in town. I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t support an extension of the one trail that is accessible.

Chris Lennon
September 29, 2022 10:29 pm

The Reformatory Branch should be accessable, but that does not imply that it must be a paved super highway. There are many examples of ADA compliant trails that use a natural surface. Such an approach was never given serious consideration because if we take the states money, the state insists on asphalt. We should give up on chasing the states dollar and build the trail that is right for Bedford.

September 30, 2022 11:07 am
Reply to  Chris Lennon

ADA compliance is the bare minimum. In our experience, trails that are said to be ADA compliant are not safe for my partners power chair. Examples include Great Meadows Dike Trail and the Narrow Gauge Trail stone dust.

Kay Corry Aubrey
October 2, 2022 9:54 am
Reply to  Leah

The unpaved trail is accessible to walkers and bikers with a wide ride range of special needs. As many have said the unpaved trail slows bikers down which makes it less dangerous for older people, people with small children and wheeling baby carriages, and people with difficulty walking. When I ride the unpaved trail in the morning I often pass and exchange greetings with a woman who has serious condition that affects her gait. She walks from Hartwell Road to Route 62 and over time I’ve seen her walking get better and better. I wonder if she’d feel safe walking on a paved path with packs of bikers dressed in spandex whizzing by at 30 mph. Last week I was talking with an older woman who said she will be unable to do her walks on the trail once it’s paved because her feet hurt when she walks on a paved surface.

Leah Devereaux
October 5, 2022 4:47 pm

My friends have said it is not stroller accessible unless you have a high end jogging stroller with shocks. I’ve never tried so can’t speak to that but can speak to the fact that there will be stone dust shoulders for the woman’s knees.

John McClain
September 30, 2022 11:39 am
Reply to  Chris Lennon

Town Meeting voted in 2010 to use an asphalt surface for this project. In preparation for that vote the town did a study that compared that alternatives. Availability of state and Federal funds were part of the reasons for picking asphalt, but also lower overall costs, and better year around access for everyone.

We of course have the option of throwing away almost 20 years of work on this project and try to find a better option, but I am skeptical there is really another surface that would provide similarly wide access at a reasonable cost, and I don’t want to wait another 10 (or more) years to provide our neighbors with an accessible path through the woods.

Chris Lennon
September 30, 2022 9:34 pm
Reply to  John McClain

I was on the Bicycle Advisory Committee at that time and I can assure you that no serious consideration was given to a natural surface path.

The relative cost estimate for a natural surface was nonsense. The numbers made no sense and Rich Warrington, head of DPW at that time did not believe them.

On the BAC, asphalt was preferred, but aside from state funding it was not an objective decision.

Chris Lennon
September 30, 2022 9:51 pm
Reply to  John McClain

See the link for a presentation from 2010:


The BAC was so married to the asphalt and state funding that they never addressed the factual issues.

Mike Merrick
October 3, 2022 12:46 pm
Reply to  John McClain

are you seriously making the argument that a vote in 2010 should stand and a survey from same time should also not be revisited.

Ryan Mantz
September 30, 2022 12:20 pm
Reply to  Chris Lennon

Multiple times a majority of Bedford voters have approved funding for the trail design to include a vote that included a paved design. Ms Deveareaux is asking voters to consider inclusivity and accessibility in the vote for eminent domain. To block the way forward without any plan, to include town funding, for an alternative design is a vote against accessibility. Be clear…the trail currently does not meet the needs of those with disabilities.

Chris Lennon
September 30, 2022 9:42 pm
Reply to  Ryan Mantz

There are accessible natural surface paths all over the country. To claim that asphalt is required for accessibility flies in the face of the facts.

My opinion is not that status quo be maintained. My opinion is that the current super highway be scrapped, and that we work toward a designed natural surface trail.

Mario Mendes
October 1, 2022 12:29 am
Reply to  Ryan Mantz

It is not the first time I have read a statement like this. I think it was in this site too, but in someone’s letter to the editor where the author said the same thing.

I can’t help but find that statement as absurd as someone actually voting no on the project because they do in fact want to keep people with disabilities from using the path.

Ryan Mantz
October 1, 2022 8:03 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

Voting yes is an active choice to value accessibility over aesthetics or the numerous fears associated with a multiuse, paved/stone dust shoulder path. Arguments against improving the path because of tree removal fail when the town points out that we as a community allow removal of more acres of trees in a year when tear-down lots are cleared. I’ve even heard absurd claims that the trail will be 130F in the summer if paved. An outing to the Bruce Freeman Trail shows how peaceful an accessible trail can be and proves absurd statements to be false.

Amy Kelly
October 2, 2022 7:45 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

Nobody is saying they think someone would vote no for the intentional purpose of denying accessibility. They’d vote no *despite* the fact that it would do that. Impact is what matters, not intent.

Tom Kenny
October 3, 2022 1:09 pm
Reply to  Ryan Mantz

Here’s the message again in this comment: If you don’t support the trail paving, you’re against accessibility, inclusivity, and “block(ing) the way forward. Whereas in other letters and comments this message has been implied, here the ad hominem argument is made explicit. This paints a lot of Bedford residents with quite a negative broad brush, which is setting a poor precedent for the way debates over issues should be conducted.

Last edited 11 months ago by Tom Kenny

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