Submitted by Kathy Doherty
Paving of the Reformatory Branch Trail is not a good choice.
First, the temperature will increase because the removal of so much of the tree canopy will allow more heat to enter the area above and beside the path, making the path a hotter environment for those along the path and living beside it. Furthermore, walking dogs along the asphalt on a hot day may become prohibitive because, for example, when the air temperature is 77, the asphalt temperature will now be 125.
Second, adding asphalt to the forest floor will not necessarily make the path safer and may even make it worse. Arlington’s Minuteman Bikeway Planning Project Final Report concludes that “. . . the Bikeway faces challenges related to crowding, differences in speed between users and expectations of user behavior.” The information in this report pertains to their end of the path, but consider that “Between January 2017 and September 2021” there were 35 crashes along Arlington’s stretch of the bikeway. I am not aware of any crashes on our end of the trail. When people are forced to slow down and be attentive as happens on dirt, they are far less likely to crash.
Third, if the path is paved, won’t it require maintenance, signage, and lights? Will we need traffic officers? Indeed, Arlington police issued 84 citations on one day alone, which tells us that people speed on pavement much more often than we know.
Fourth, what of the charm of the path and our enjoyment of nature? Some of the trees living there are old and beautiful, but if they are removed, we will lose their charm and the aesthetic beauty they provide. The path will probably be made more linear, angular, and artificial-looking. We’re being told new trees will be planted, but they will take years to grow anywhere near the height of the ones slated to be taken down, meaning it will be years before we can enjoy the path as we do now.
Has anyone actually complained about the path as it is now? People already bike, walk and push carriages along this path without difficulty all the time. Are puddles a problem as the town’s pictures suggest? How detrimental can puddles be when children love them?
This would be an irrevocable change, which would take a natural, “rural” environment and turn it into something more citylike.