~Submitted by John McClain
The Minuteman Extension article at the upcoming Special Town Meeting asks Bedford voters to make a value judgment on who belongs where.
As a former railroad right-of-way, the Reformatory Branch Trail is one of the few stretches of land in town suitable to be made into an accessible, multi-use path. It is also the only viable route to create a year-round pedestrian/bike connection between Depot Park and West Bedford. The people of Bedford have been working for almost two decades to make this vision a reality.
Because the land is unique, Town Meeting is faced with a choice. Do we (try to) leave it as is, or change it? Do we leverage its unique character to expand the circle of people who can use it, accepting that the same changes that make the path better for many of our neighbors, will make it worse for others?
Do we make Railroad Ave better for pedestrians, knowing that increased pedestrian use will require drivers to be more careful? Do we pave the trail knowing it will increase the number of people who *can* use the trail, but reduce the enjoyment of some current users? Do we add a tunnel at Concord Road so pedestrians and bikes can safely cross a busy, high speed road, knowing that it will cause temporary disruption to a nearby business for 2-4 months?
These and other questions are value judgments that Town Meeting, and only Town Meeting, can make. For me, it isn’t hard. Railroad Ave is too important a route to leave it hostile to people outside of cars. For the Reformatory Branch Trail itself, I know a number of people who can’t use it at all, or have trouble with the path as is. They deserve to be able to get around town and have access to the adjacent conservation land. Robust walking and bicycling infrastructure also make it possible for Bedford’s kids to visit friends across town, or the library without needing a ride from a parent. Finally, extending the Minuteman provides a critical link moving us to a less car-dependent Bedford; combating climate change, and making us happier.
So, it is a choice, but a choice I encourage all registered voters in town to make with me. Please come to Special Town Meeting on November 14th, vote yes on Article 10, and make this unique path accessible to everyone.