The Upper Charles Trail Committee held a virtual meeting Wednesday evening with its primary focus to gather information on the presentation of an alternative trail design for the Hopkinton portion of the Upper Charles Trail running from Milford to Ashland.
Resident Peter LaGoy, co-chair of the Hopkinton Trails Club (a private organization), previously helped organize the construction of five current stone dust trails along 2.25 miles in town. He proposed a stone dust shared-use path (SUP) that he said would be a less expensive and safer option to the one proposed by the Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC).
UCTC Chair Jane Moran opened the discussion by letting LaGoy and the public know that his proposal “is very different than the town-approved Upper Charles Trail Committee’s vision.” She compared it to the Holliston railroad bed, which is stone dust like the one at the Milford railroad bed, and noted that both Holliston and Milford had a flat rail bed to start.
She reminded LaGoy that the committee reviewed his proposal in 2016 and “ran into roadblocks right away,” such as wetlands and connectivity issues.
LaGoy said his proposal of a stone dust shared trail “is more consistent with the recreational needs of Hopkinton,” and it can be constructed at a lower cost and faster rate than the UCTC proposal.
For the five stone dust trails LaGoy helped implement in town, the average cost was approximately $150,000 per mile. Medfield is working on one now that will cost $181,000 per mile, while one in Holliston will cost $50,000 per mile, he said.
By contrast, the UCTC asphalt paved trail proposal has been estimated to cost $2 million a mile, while a typical paved road costs $5 million per mile. The committee plans to apply for a MassTrails grant to cover some of the costs.
“You’re building a mini road with all the complexities of building a mini road,” LaGoy explained. There would have to be wetlands surveys, engineered design stage plans, and stormwater management tools.
A stone dust path would need to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and town guidelines with guidance from the state. It has more of” a design-build approach,” according to LaGoy, who added that maintenance costs are lower for a stone dust trail.
He also said there were 19 factors being considered in the UCTC plan, such as noise impacts and air quality impacts, which LaGoy referred to as “overkill for a shared-use path.”
Said LaGoy of the two types: “Neither is better for all uses; both have their place.”
While pavement is better for inline skating, skateboards and biking, stone dust is designed for recreational activities such as walking, running and dog walking. Asphalt is hot for dogs’ feet in the summer.
Construction on a stone dust path could occur this year, whereas an asphalt one would not be completed for five years, he said.
LaGoy’s proposed trail would start at the end of the Center Trail at Loop Road, go to the Charlesview Estates neighborhood, and cross over both town-owned and privately owned parcels in a wooded area. The middle would go through the Hughes and Echo trails. [Editor’s note: Our original story indicated the UCTC plan also would use the Echo Trail, but that is not correct; it would run along Route 85.] To the south, it proposes an 80-foot pedestrian bridge over Route 85 at the town line with Milford.
While five landowners would be affected by LaGoy’s proposal, the UCTC’s version would impact 15, he noted.
“The hope would be to work with the landowners and the topography to come up with a couple of options to the trail and then bring that back to the abutter,” LaGoy continued.
The UCTC proposal would use town-owned land on the opposite side of Hayden Rowe. However, on Jan. 13, the School Committee voted unanimously not to support the UCTC application to use land that abuts Marathon School and where a possible future school could go.
LaGoy was asked several questions from members about the cost of bridge abutments, acquiring the land where the pedestrian bridge is proposed. Because this is not an official proposal, LaGoy has not sought cost estimates for some of the questions answered. He said he talked to two property owners behind Charlesview, and they “are willing to discuss options” about easements or purchases.
Moran presented a list of questions, including grading, details on the wetlands and vernal pools, and the elevation of the hills in the Charlesview area.
LaGoy replied that he hasn’t gone into specifics at this point in the process.
“We’ve looked at the cost of the bridge and we’ve looked at the land on both sides,” he said. “That’s as far as we’ve gone with this.”
No public comments or votes were taken because it was considered an informational meeting for UCTC members.
“I think this whole process is going to be a betterment to the town,” Moran concluded. “We all want the best, safest, best available route possible. And it’s only by researching all these good questions that we’re going to get through this process.”
UCTC chair issues apology
Before the presentation, Moran read a public apology for a remark she made.
“At a previous meeting, I made an insensitive and callous and unintentional comment regarding the horrific accident along Hayden Rowe, where a young man was tragically struck and killed,” she said. “It was thoughtless and cruel to the families of the deceased, and I realized too late that I opened up old wounds to which I am deeply saddened and regretful.
“I should have known better and checked the facts of the case before I opened my mouth,” Moran continued.
Since that time, Moran said she reached out to Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett “to get the facts of the case.” She also asked for a report on the 2016 case in which a young mother pushing a baby carriage alongside a friend and two children was struck crossing Hayden Rowe near EMC Park.
“I can only say that we all want only the safest possible trail that can be built in our town,” she added, noting that LaGoy was the one who brought the comment to her attention.