The Berlin Board of Selectmen have accepted delivery of the Final Report of the Berlin Rail Trail Advisory Committee, dated June 20, 2018. With gratitude for their service to the Town, the Selectmen voted on August 27, 2018 to dissolve the Rail Trail Advisory Committee since the committee’s study/report mission was achieved. To see the final report, click here.
I. Mission Statement
The Rail Trail Advisory Committee provides a mechanism for the Town to examine the issues in converting an existing rail line in Berlin to a recreational path.
- Should have regular public presentations during the course of their review to publicize their inquiry and to regularly solicit input from the public;
- Should identify and address the many questions and concerns that residents of Berlin have about the rail trail;
- Should seek information as to the actual experience of communities with existing rail trails and document that information; and
- Should consider alternatives to the rail trail, including for example the placement of some or all of it on alternate routes (e.g. the Ross Dam).
The Committee shall develop a balanced report with a discussion of the pros/cons of the conversion and recommendations for the issues which must be addressed.
II. Issues for Consideration
The Town must come to a consensus on the many issues before the rail trail conversion can proceed. These issues include, but are not limited to:
Physical Design Issues
- Interface and Integration with existing public ways
- Buffers to affected abutters
- Access and Parking
- Need for any facilities (e.g. lighting, crossings, bathrooms)
- Conceptual design of the path: dimensions of the path and materials used to construct the path.
- Abutters concerns; security, privacy, property values, mitigation
- Environmental issues; wetlands, wildlife, soil contamination
- Safety concerns; police, fire
- Allow dogs or horses.
- Funding; how the design and construction will be paid for, what costs to the town
- Ongoing maintenance and costs (e.g. police coverage and trash pickup).
III. Membership and Operation
The Rail Trail Committee shall have 5 at-large members and a Board of Selectmen liaison. All appointments shall be indefinite, until the Board of Selectmen feels the mission of the Committee has been achieved, or that the membership needs to be changed in order to keep the work progressing. A member of the Board of Selectmen shall chair the Committee until a Chair has been elected from the membership of the Committee. A clerk shall also be elected to ensure that all meetings are properly posted and minutes of each meeting are kept. Minutes of the Committee shall be prepared and posted. The committee shall be in compliance with the Open Meeting Law, Public Records Law and the Conflict of Interest Law.
May 3, 2016 – ATM Art. 38 vote to establish committee (2nd of 3-night ATM)
June 27, 2016 – Description approved by Board of Selectmen
|Selectman Liaison||Peg Stone|
IV. Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns
Can local volunteers work on the construction of the Rail Trail?
This property is not owned by the town of Berlin; the town has no authority regarding construction. The property is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) which in turn entered into a 99 year lease with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
Per the lease,two phases are required: design and building. Before the Town (and/or the Town and DCR jointly) begins to construct the trail, it must submit a Construction Access Permit and a proposed design to the DCR for review, revision and approval by the DCR, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Historic Commission.
Per the DCR, construction must be done within MASSACHUSETTS HORIZONTAL CONSTRUCTION specification
DCR can construct a trail with no Berlin input/approval if funds become available to them.
How much will the construction of the Rail Trail cost? How much of this will be the responsibility of the town?
The consensus is a rail trail has the base cost of $1million per mile (a formula used for other rail trails built in Massachusetts). In 2013 the DCR filed an Expanded Environmental Notification Form with the State in it Berlin’s 2.3 mile section was estimated to cost $2,355,000.
Initial costs; design, permitting and title search are the responsibility of the town. The engineering design and permitting fee is typically between 10% and 20% of the construction cost. Once the design is approved by the 3 state agencies, the town would then need a diligent and aggressive committee to research and apply for any available grants, to alleviate the town from further costs. Some towns have also received funds from local businesses, and these would need to be solicited.
Paul Jahnige, DCR’s representative—said that there may be some available DCR monies in the future, but the reality is Berlin is the end of the line, monies will go to Waltham, Weston and Wayland first.
CRIME, is a reoccurring question among residents.
Police Chief Tom Galvin reported after his research he believes, crime on a rail trail is reflective of the crime in the community.
Berlin Police presently have a mountain bike that could be used for trail patrol.
Both Police and Fire feel that an ATV would be beneficial to them for dealing with the trail.
Because the land is State property, State Police can also be contacted if there is an issue to be addressed.
Who maintains the Rail Trail, will the Budget of our Highway department be impacted?
Berlin Highway Department will need to mow trail edges, blow leaves, and keep the parking area plowed during winter months. The Highway Superintendent has reported that this will add to his budget. Major upkeep, such as surface repair, will be the responsibility of DCR.
What is the policy regarding litter?
DCR has the policy of CARRY IN, CARRY OUT. Trail users are expected to carry out everything that goes in with them. Volunteer groups or individuals can patrol the trail periodically for trail pick up.
Where is parking for the Rail Trail located?
This has still not been determined. Several locations have been suggested, (1) the commuter lot at 495 – which will require an ADA compliant ramp to be built (2) the corner of Route 62 and Coburn Rd. (3) Highland St. (4) Sawyer Hill Rd and possibly (5) the old Highway barn on Carter Street. If St. Josephs church agrees the church parking lot has also been suggested – if the trail begins at Coburn, users would need to walk along Route 62. Some factors on this subject that must be considered are the upkeep, space, safety of the location and any designated parking lot along with the access paths to the trail must be ADA and AAB compliant.
Can dogs be walked on the trail?
DCR requires that dogs must be leashed when walking on the trail, owners are expected to pick up after their own animals.
Will horseback riding be allowed on the trail?
This is one area Paul Jahnige has pointed out to be a problem area for the Town of Berlin. Specifications require the trail be 10 feet wide with 2-foot shoulders on each side. An equestrian path requires an additional 6-foot adjacent path. The width of the present trail does not entirely accommodate this, extra construction could remedy this but that would require additional money and possibly disturb contaminated soil that naturally comes with rail beds.
Will hunting be allowed on the Rail Trail?
Berlin is a hunter friendly town, and there is hunting around the trail. Paul Jahnige said hunting is not allowed on DCR property and his opinion is hunting and mixed-use trails do not mix.
Will privacy fencing be provided if requested?
DCR prefers plantings and screening to serve this purpose.
Can the town provide wildlife cameras if requested by abutters?
This is a subject our committee has never discussed; the question was raised by an abutter. There would need to research done if this is a possibility and who would pay for this.
Will there be lighting provided on the trail?
Hours for all DCR properties are from DAWN TO DUSK, lights will not be necessary.
What surface material will be used and who makes the final decision on this?
DCR prefers asphalt (asphalt functions as safe cap for the soil contaminants that comes with abandoned rail ways), their second choice is crushed stone aggregate.
Will restroom facilities be provided, and who is responsible for these?
These are not planned.
**All statements attributed to Paul Jahnige, Director DCR Greenways & Trails Program, as provided at the Rail Trail Advisory Committee’s February 22, 2017 meeting that can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.