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April 21, 2014

Letter: Support Groveland rail trail proposal

To the editor:

On April 28, at Groveland’s Annual Town Meeting, I and fellow residents will vote on a warrant article -- verbally, as this is not on the ballot -- to advance a project to better our community and the region at large. I will confidently vote “Yes” and ask others to consider doing the same.

The Groveland Community Trail -- a proposed 3.25 mile shared-use, non-motorized “rail trail” path -- when completed, will offer safe, healthy, and scenic recreation and pedestrian transportation for generations beyond our own. Furthermore, the project positions Groveland to connect into a blossoming regional trail network taking shape from Newburyport to Boston, where many other towns are transforming abandoned rail and other utility corridors into vibrant and permanent open-space resources.

The Groveland Open Space and Trails Committee (OSTC) was granted its warrant to commit Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for a conceptual design. While this year’s warrant does not commit to the project itself, nor any final design elements, the requested conceptual design will allow uniquely interested parties (e.g., abutting property owners, town and regional boards, schools, local businesses) and project leaders to engage in a responsible, public, and transparent dialogue -- based in facts -- to ultimately determine if Groveland should pursue a final project, and if so, what is the most appropriate design to appeal to the greatest number of residents.

Misconceptions abound, so it’s critical for voters to understand that this year’s warrant, nor any future investments by Groveland, will increase residents’ taxes. Also, this year’s warrant in no way commits to the final project itself. Never will private property be taken, and construction is by no means imminent; the timeline for a completed trail is upwards of eight to 10 years from today.

It’s equally important to understand longer-term project funding, that 100 percent of Groveland’s investment (all for engineering design) would be paid from an existing pool of CPA dollars (i.e., existing commonwealth-matched funds already set aside for this exact type of open-space project). Groveland OSTC is pursuing an approach where MassDOT -- via its GreenDOT initiative and Healthy Transportation directive -- will fund all construction costs, at a roughly 10-times return on Groveland’s investment. Additionally, to mitigate financial risk to the town, OSTC’s approach staggers design investments over several years with multiple Town Meeting votes to ensure all voters have an opportunity to decide whether (or not) to move forward with each incremental design stage.

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