SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 19, 2010

Rail-trail work to pick up steam in December

By Ethan Forman
Staff writer

DANVERS — Work to complete a major stretch of the Danvers Rail Trail should really get moving next month, Rail Trail Advisory Committee members and representatives of the Iron Horse Preservation Society said last night.

"Everything is happening in the first week of December," said Dan Curtis, who heads up the outreach subcommittee of the Danvers Rail Trail Advisory Committee.

Curtis is part of a nine-member committee that has been working to create a 4.3-mile trail for walking, jogging and biking from Peabody to Wenham. The town has a 99-year lease agreement with the MBTA to allow for the creation of the corridor for passive recreation on an unused section of railroad.

The work to rip up rails began this past spring, but the best-laid plans of Iron Horse to get the trail finished by the summer went astray, after a series of logistical snags. Iron Horse is a Nevada-based nonprofit that specializes in building rail trails and preserving railroad corridors, and building the trails at no cost to communities.

So far, Iron Horse has removed all the rail, giving the surface a rough grade; removed rail from street crossings; and worked to remove stacks of ties. The ties must come out before the trail work can begin in earnest, to prevent the finished surface from being torn up by trucks loaded with ties.

"We are moving out one more truck tomorrow and two more Monday," said Joe Hattrup, the chief operating officer of Iron Horse.

The best-case scenario is that three miles of the trail will be completed in the first week of December.

Last night, Hattrup described the plans to about 45 residents who turned up for a meeting in the Senior Center on Stone Street. Iron Horse plans to compact the trail's surface and then put down a layer of gravel. The rock has chunks that are bigger than stone dust, but not as large as the ballast that the ties used to sit on.

Danvers Electric will supply this stone to the project because of its interest in keeping the rail trail open so its crews can get to power lines. The last mile or so north from Wenham Street to the Wenham line will be done in the spring. Iron Horse expects to get a donation of recycled crushed stone from the MBTA.

Last night's gathering featured a history of the former Boston and Maine railroad by train buff Alden Goodnow. Curtis showed a series of slides that showed the trail's progress over the summer and fall.

While some residents of a condominium complex along the trail are concerned about a loss of privacy, the audience last night seemed glad about having a trail in their backyard.

Suzanne Kaplan, who lives on a dirt road called Pickering Place, off Pickering Street, said her property is pretty close to the rail trail.

"I'm looking forward to it," Kaplan said. "It's a nice idea. I'm glad it's almost done."

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or eforman@salemnews.com.