Trail of the Month: April 2003
Minuteman Bikeway, Massachusetts
Located a few miles northwest of Boston, the Minuteman Bikeway—celebrated as America's 500th rail-trail when it opened in 1992—continues to be one of the country's most popular rail-trails. The aesthetically pleasing route traces past ponds, lakes, parks and wildflower meadows as it connects the inner suburbs of Boston between Cambridge in the east and Bedford in the west. In addition to the recreation and alternative transportation opportunities provided by the paved 11 miles of the Minuteman Bikeway, the trail also provides walkers, bicyclists, inline skaters and wheelchair users a chance to pass through the historic area where the American Revolution began in April 1775.
In Cambridge, where the trail connects to the Alewife "T" Station, the bikeway plays an integral role in helping to reduce automobile traffic. With the direct transit connection, the trail provides an easy way for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel to subway and bus lines. Farther west, the trail connects to a wide range of shops and restaurants in downtown Arlington, helping to create a vibrant pedestrian- oriented environment. After briefly joining Massachusetts Avenue, the bikeway passes by several of Arlington's parks, culminating with the Arlington Reservoir and its summer swimming area, which converts to a winter skating pond.
Shortly after passing the Arlington Reservoir, the Minuteman Bikeway borders Great Meadows, which at 183 acres is one of the largest publicly owned open spaces in the area. Because Great Meadows has limited access from area roads, the bikeway functions as the best way to get to this beautiful park and its acres of wildflowers and wetlands. Great Meadows also offers miles of off-road hiking trails for trail users interested in stepping off the pavement of the Minuteman Bikeway.
As the bikeway continues west through Lexington and on to Bedford, it becomes increasingly clear that even more than ten years after its completion the trail is continuing to inspire community-related improvements along its historic corridor. In Lexington, the Lexington Center Depot, in association with the Lexington Historical Society, will soon become a Tourist and Exhibit Center. On the bikeway side, under the depot's train shed, bikeway users will be able to purchase drinks and snacks at the depot's former ticket windows. In front of Depot Square, the reconstructed Emery Park will feature widened sidewalks, new public benches and a loading area for local bus passengers.
In Bedford, the future Bedford Depot Park will enhance the Bedford terminus of the Minuteman Bikeway with improved landscaping, public sanitary facilities, new benches and lighting, and increased public parking. A retired Boston & Maine Railroad passenger car has already been brought to the site for restoration. In addition, the 1870s Railroad Depot and Freight House structures have been purchased for historic preservation. When completed, Bedford's Depot Park is expected to be a model Transportation Enhancements project, funded with federal TEA-21 money.