Letter to the Editor: Protect Our Green Space

~Submitted by Julie Brill

The reality about green space is once it’s gone, we’ve lost it forever. In Bedford, we must stay vigilant to protect what remains. We voted down a paved, widened, and plowed Reformatory Branch Trail in March and must do it again at town meeting on November 14/15.

As a near life-long resident, I’ve had a front row seat to Bedford’s increasing urbanization. Some neighboring towns hold on to their open space. At town meeting last May, Concord voted to keep their part of the RBT natural. But here we repeatedly say yes to development when we should say no. 

There’s still time to save the RBT from becoming a road: 18 feet of pavement (12’ of asphalt and 6’ of stone dust margins) with a minimum of 6-foot clearing and grubbing on either side and a 10-foot-deep tunnel to accommodate the Town’s equipment. We have over 50 miles of streets and a paved bikeway you can ride to Cambridge. Bedford doesn’t need more asphalt. 

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Under the State’s proposal, every tree on the elevation would be clear cut. More trees would be sacrificed to parking lots and a new bikeway running along the DPW driveway off Hartwell. Over 4.3 acres of trees would be destroyed; no wonder the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee voted unanimously against it. 

The Town tells us they’d replace trees. But mature forest would be “replaced” at only ten saplings per acre. And even that’s a hollow promise. Money waits in the fund for trees already lost as there is no place to replant them. 

The plans also call for “replacing” wetlands. A 2018 UMass study shows this doesn’t work. 

If the Minuteman Bikeway extends over the RBT, more and faster traffic will funnel into the threatened Blanding’s turtle habitat in Bedford, west of the proposed turn around and into Concord. Most of these rare species must cross the RBT to lay eggs. The babies, black and the size of a half-dollar, would risk being squashed as they cross into the Refuge and being poached for an international market. They risk hunkering down to avoid a crowded road when they should be crossing. Watch Dr. Bryan Windmiller’s talk on the Blanding’s and the threats they’d face. 

The RBT is a popular, safe, quiet wooded corridor already enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, runners, and cross-country skiers. It’s a gem to protect. Please vote NO on Article 10 on November 14/15. 

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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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Patty Dahlgren
November 5, 2022 7:47 am

I’m voting with you, nature, future generations and the baby turtles. NO on 10.

November 4, 2022 9:23 pm

Help me understand the turtle problem?

In your video at ~21:30, Dr Windmiller shares a map of all of the turtle nesting sites and he shows, very clearly, that the nests are on the wrong side of the trail. And then he says “Bonnievale Drive … the only nest that we’ve seen in Bedford.” And the path from Bonnievale to the river stays on the same side of the path. No crossings are necessary.

And at ~24:45, he flat out says “the turtles aren’t crossing the Bedford part to be paved.”

I get that turtles don’t care about the lines on a map. And I get that the turtles might expand their habitat and that there might be undiscovered nests.

But today, if the turtles all live in Concord, and Concord isn’t going to pave the path, which means that cyclists will move more slowly in that area around the turtles, what is the concern?

Honestly, I thought turtles were up and down the whole path and I had just missed an annual migration; a rite of passage in the town. But now it feels like this turtle issue is just out of scope since it literally happens somewhere else.

I don’t understand and I’d like to. Thanks in advance!

Julie Brill
November 5, 2022 12:19 pm
Reply to  Marc

Hi Marc,
Thanks for your question and for watching Dr. Windmiller’s presentation.
There are Blanding’s nesting in Bedford. The Bedford nests on Bonnievale are on the same side of the RBT as the Refuge. I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that the protected turtle habitat in Bedford was not originally on the VHB maps. Thanks to some astute citizens, this error has been corrected and the illegal work (grubbing, clearing, laying utilities) is no longer planned through their territory in Bedford. However, after speaking with the DPW, it is my understanding that the Town will not be posting the corrected maps on their website, hence, perhaps, the confusion over whether or not the threatened Blanding’s turtles are in Bedford.
In Concord, Blanding’s lay their eggs on the far-side of the RBT from the Refuge. Mothers must cross twice. Babies must cross when they are about the size of a half-dollar. If Bedford’s RBT were paved, more people would continue into the Concord section. This increased traffic could cause the turtles to hunker down and wait, rather than cross, or to try to seek other longer routes. Increased traffic, especially cyclists, increases the risk that the babies would be inadvertently squashed. Although the cyclists would slow down as they switched from asphalt to dirt, they would still be traveling quickly enough to be a problem to the babies. You probably heard Dr. Windmiller say that if he were biking very slowly and looking for turtles, he still isn’t confident he could avoid running them over.

Tim Bennett
November 7, 2022 4:21 pm
Reply to  Julie Brill

People already bike through that area daily, and a volunteer recently said in the comments that there has been absolutely no evidence that this poses an issue. In addition. It is nearly a mile from Concord road, where paving would stop, to Great Meadows. If this distance over dirt is not enough to slow cyclists as you claim, why is there any reason to believe that keeping the RBT as dirt or stone dust would have any effect?

Julie Brill
November 7, 2022 10:35 pm
Reply to  Tim Bennett

Hi Tim,
Asphalt would continue west of Concord Road for the ramp and turn around. If you look at the corrected VHB map that shows the Blanding’s territory, you see that the asphalt goes up to that border. Dr. Windmiller, who has been working with tbis threatened population (now one of tbd largest on the Eastern Seaboard due to his efforts) addressed that volunteer’s comments. You can check them out yourself, but essentially it’s highly unlikely that he would have seen dead turtles. The absence of seeing dead turtles doesn’t mean there aren’t any or that the turtles aren’t or wouldn’t be changing their behavior to avoid a busy path. Those changes would come at a cost to them of course.

McClain, John
November 7, 2022 11:59 pm
Reply to  Julie Brill

I haven’t see the revised drawings on the project website, but as near as I can tell the pavement ends at least a couple 100 feet short of the Priority Habit

Julie Brill
November 8, 2022 8:56 am
Reply to  McClain, John

John, my understanding after speaking with the DPW staff is that they won’t be posting the corrected map to the project website. However, it is a public document.

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