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Letter to the Editor: Trails should be stone dust

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Letter to Editor

[Recently] I rode my road bike (skinny-tire 10-speed) the entire length of the completed portions of the Upper Charles Trail, from the Hopkinton-Milford town line through Milford, then through Holliston to the Sherborn border. I didn’t think my bike would do well on the unpaved, stone dust Holliston portion, but it was pretty much the same as riding on Milford’s pavement.

I mention this because there’s a push to make Hopkinton’s portion of the Upper Charles Trail a paved path, in part to accommodate road bikes. I’d like to see it be a stone dust trail instead, for a number of reasons. Stone dust is cheaper to build (about one-third the cost of pavement) and maintain, it’s perfectly fine for strollers, wheelchairs and all types of bicycles, and it’s easier on joints and muscles for walkers, runners and horses (and even dogs!). Stone dust is also a permeable surface, allowing rainwater to filter through to the ground below. Yes, there is permeable pavement, but it requires annual vacuuming (yes, vacuuming) to maintain its permeability. Stone dust surfaces can be ADA-compliant, and rail-to-trail grants do allow for stone dust surfaces (Danvers, Groton, and Swampscott have all received DCR funding for stone dust trails).

Finally, a stone dust trail fits in better with the natural surroundings it passes through. A paved path looks like a road. Personally I’d rather walk on a trail than a road, and I’m not alone in this opinion. In a straw poll of trail users (hikers, bikers, horse riders, etc.) at a 2017 meeting run by the Upper Charles Trail Committee, the participants overwhelmingly favored a stone dust surface.

Hopkinton currently has one small completed portion of the Upper Charles Trail, the Center Trail. It has a stone dust surface, which cannot be paved (conservation restrictions). Work is close to starting on additional parts of the trail, and it just makes sense for any new trails to also be stone dust so when they are eventually connected, there’s a consistency to the town’s trail system.

— John Ritz, Hopkinton

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