Rail Trail Extension:
A View from the Bike Path
Knowing of my hostile reaction to the extensive tree cutting for the extension of the bike trail from Florence to Leeds, Nick Horton, president of the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways invited me to ride with him the other day to take a look at the construction work.
Meeting on our bikes at the trail’s current terminus at Bridge Road and Look Park, we first traveled along the new paved section adjacent to the park where Nick pointed out the newly planted shrubs and trees that had now replaced the trees that had been removed. He acknowledged that it was unfortunate that the tree screen along Route 9 had been cut down but we both were somewhat relieved by the new plantings.
We traveled along the newly paved section as far as the gap at the rear entrance to the park, Nick remarking on the
wide surface which will prevent trees in the future from punching through or lifting up the traveled surface.
We then rode through the park itself to view the construction work from the inside out. . Neither of us fully
understands why the trail actually is designed to enter the park for a short distance, or who made the decision, the park trustees, city planning officials or MassHighway.
Exiting at the rear opening of the park near the gas station/convenience store on Route 9, we both felt the section from that point to the Arch Street bridge and along the Florence Street embankment was pretty barren, almost naked, of trees or greenery.
Our route then took us under the bridge and along Arch Street and then across the river to Leeds Center. For most of this section, the trail is nicely tucked away or virtually out of sight until it hits Mulberry Street and then continues to a connector at the end of Grove Avenue.
At right: Nick Horton/Grove Avenue
We were both somewhat surprised by the extensive tree cutting and heavy construction undertaken at the extension of Grove Avenue in order to create a link to the original railroad roadbed.
During our 45-minute ride, Nick did not try to minimize the significant tree cutting and some obvious rearranging the sections of landscape, but he was very positive about the overall scheme city planners have developed to expand and link up bike routes within the city and connect them with trails beyond it.
From my point of view, the outcome might be fine in the end, after years of restorative growth have filled in the barren spaces and the painful removal of greenway in this section of the city. But together we had an amiable and informative bike ride, despite our differing opinions.
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