BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Rail trail enthusiasts have come up with a plan to improve the trail and get joggers, walkers and cyclists out of the busy parking lot at the Danvers Agway store.
They want to refurbish Putnamville Park on Wenham Street, which is next to the Agway parking lot, and reroute the rail trail to go through it.
The rail trail currently runs through and along the edge of the parking lot. Routing the trail through the park would make it safer and enhance the playground, which does not get much use, rail trail proponents say.
The proposal goes before the Conservation Commission tomorrow at 7 p.m. in a meeting to be held at Danvers Senior Center, 15 Stone St.
Charles Lincicum, chairman of the Rail Trail Advisory Committee, said safety has been paramount in the development of the 4.3-mile rail trail from Peabody to Wenham. A short stretch just south of Wenham Street has proved vexing because it mixes pedestrians and bicyclists with cars and trucks in the parking lot of a store.
“We’ve got to separate the people from the cars,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential.”
The trail was constructed following the path of an old MBTA railroad, along the edge of the Agway parking lot. The area can be a tight one for parking, because no parking is allowed on Wenham Street. Tractor trailers also back into the lot to make deliveries.
This part of the trail has proved popular, with 300 to 400 people a day using it in good weather, Lincicum said.
The plan is to have the trail jog right into the park, Lincicum said. The problem is there is a 30-foot-wide wetlands area between the trail and the park, so the plan needs approval from the Conservation Commission. The trail has to cross into wetlands because there are two telephone cabinets at the southern tip of the parking lot that cannot be moved to make way for the trail.
“We think an 8-foot-wide, 50-foot-long boardwalk would do that,” Lincicum said of the wetland crossing. The trail would run into the playground and parallel to the present trail.
Travis Reardon, a tree climber with the DPW’s Forestry Division, is designing a landscaping plan. The play set would be moved to different location, a gazebo would be built, and a parking lot for 11 cars would be added.
Colin Butler, an Eagle Scout candidate with Troop 16, would help build railings for the boardwalk, and one of Eagle Scout Tim Jordan’s train axle benches would be moved into the park.
The first phase would be to build the boardwalk and run the trail through the park. Senior Planner Kate Day said the boardwalk would cost about $15,000.
The second phase would be to work with Recreation Department on other amenities and make sure the path is graded properly so that it is accessible to all.
“The Recreation Department is very pleased with what’s happening,” Beth Klemm, a member of the Danvers Recreation Committee, told selectmen at a recent meeting.
Agway is onboard and has promised to volunteer labor and materials, Lincicum said.
The town has won a grant from boot and apparel maker Timberland, based in Stratham, N.H., which has taken this on as one of its Earth Day volunteer projects. Timberland plans to organize a team of more than 50 volunteers to work on the park for eight hours and provide $4,000 for materials.
“We plan to send approximately 50 employees to help build a bridge (part of the rerouting of the existing rail trail) and revitalize the underutilized park,” said Ali Pike, a senior interactive designer for Timberland.
Town Manager Wayne Marquis said the Timberland grant is highly competitive, and the town is grateful for it.
“They do wonderful work, from what I’ve been told,” Marquis said. He said without the grant, the town would not be able to accomplish its plans for Putnamville Park.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.