EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 21, 2014

North Andover town planner pushes for bike trail

NORTH ANDOVER — The dream of building a multi-use trail along an abandoned railroad right-of-way still lives.

The trail would be in the northern part of the town, running through the parking lot of the commercial building at 21 High Street and parallel to Walker Road. It would also extend through the grounds of North Andover High School.

The trail’s surface would most likely be stone dust and would be used by walkers, runners and cyclists, according to Town Planner Judy Tymon.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation provides money for multiuse trails, also known as rail trails. Tymon said she will probably not apply to that agency for a grant because the filing deadline will soon pass.

She may “possibly” ask the town Community Preservation Committee for money for such a project, she said. That committee makes recommendations on how to spend money raised through the Community Preservation Act.

The Town Meeting has the final say on how North Andover’s Community Preservation Fund is spent. The fund is supplied by a 3 percent surtax on local real estate tax bills plus an annual state grant.

School Committee Chairman Stanley Limpert noted that after several years of providing reduced assistant, the state has increased its support of Community Preservation Act projects.

Both Tymon and Limpert noted that access through the high school property presents challenges. One possible route is very close to wetlands, Tymon said. The construction of a retaining wall might be required for another potential path, she said.

Multiuse trails following abandoned railroad tracks have been constructed in several Essex County communities, including Haverhill, Methuen, Newburyport, Topsfield, Danvers and Peabody. In Methuen, railroad ties and rails were cleared from that city’s trail beginning in 2011 by the nonprofit Iron Horse Preservation Society. The group finances its work by selling the tracks to restore historic railroads lines.

The ties and rails of the North Andover line were removed a long time ago, Limpert noted.

The line ran through North Andover between Lawrence and Middleton many years ago.

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