Friday, June 5, 2015

The Struggle is Real

The Struggle is real. Often we use that as a punch line to some silly joke about what ever "struggle" we are going through. And other times it is dead serious. We are so lucky living in New England. We have lots of open space in urban areas, we have great local advocates and a tradition going back to our forefathers of being in nature. The fact that we ride by the woods Thoreau crafted Walden always blows my mind. And its sort of a birthright to carry on his philosophy and apply it to our two wheeled reverence of the woods and trails. Mixed terrain riding in New England has blown up. In large part due to all these amazing trail systems that connect parks and towns. We are at the point where most of our rides don't have to include riding on a paved road. Or if we do its for a brief moment before we pop into the next almost Narnia like realm.

As much as we benefit from some great efforts to not only keep the trail systems alive and well we have to always be vigilant. I remember riding through Wellesley on an area called the North 40 one day. It is a loop my good friends Steen and Rob showed me. It really was the first mixed terrain ride I had ever been on. I was beyond hooked. But on this day as I was rolling through the shaded path I came across what can only be described as a blast zone with a Caterpillar sitting in the middle of it. Wellesley residents mobilized quickly. The North 40 as it is called is owned by Wellesley College. Wellesley College decided to sell it to a developer and let them turn it into a bunch of condos. Progress is our number one enemy in keeping open space alive.

There was enough blowback on the project that Wellesley College agreed to sell it to the town and let it be conserved as open space. A win for all of us who need places that aren't paved. The world we live in is becoming more and more disconnected from the real world. We spend sooo much time glued to a blue screen. We spend so much time sitting in a car or in a cubicle. Our kids think video games are real. You think I am joking. I am not. The cure to all of this is the outside. We can't all drive to the mountains or beach. What we can do is ride our bike or walk from our house to the woods. Our souls need these breaks. We can recharge, get fit and healthy and see and hear things we never would have even noticed before.

If the North 40 was a win, Cutler so far has been a loss. A big loss. We all knew the 95 Add a Lane project was going to impact Cutler. I assumed it would affect what we call the West side. The West side sits on the West side of 95. It runs parallel to 95 along Greendale. It is a fun little trail very few people know about. But it is a perfect respite from the hectic roads of Needham and Newton and offers some real challenges for a cyclist. I love that trail. I was bummed thinking it would be destroyed. My biggest concern was and still is the highway exchange they are putting on Kendrick. Kendrick is such a high traffic ingress and egress point for so many cyclists funneling through on their way out to ride Dover or in from Needham to ride Cutler. Highway exchanges are so dangerous for cyclists. Roads are bad enough. Throw in a highway on/off ramp and you have a recipe for carnage.

My hope was/is that the MassDot would build a protected bike lane or flyover to keep us safe. It looks like from the project documents that all we will get is a wide lane and perhaps the on/off ramps will be sharp enough to force cars to slow down. What it won't solve is rush hour traffic right hooking cyclists as they try and navigate a busy bridge full of frustrated drivers after a long day sitting in a cubicle.

But to my horror neither of the above scenarios was the worst thing that could happen. I had seen trail stakes along one of my favorite trails in Cutler for weeks. I assumed they were there to mark the trail for surveying reasons and to preserve it. That trail is such a fun roller coaster that serves as the perfect connector from Kendrick to the inner part of the park. Cutler has become much more popular over the last couple of years. Its a testament to just how important this park is. But its nice to have an alternative trail to avoid dog walkers, runners and other trail users. It also was a great trail for snowshoeing in the winter. I have so many memories of that trail.

That is all we will have now as it is gone. I rode over the other day and to my horror it had been bulldozed. I almost cried. It felt like that commercial from the '80s where the Native American on a horse looks at the horror of progress from his horse and is speechless except for the tears rolling down his cheeks.

A lot of people are outraged. The more word gets out and people see how bad it is there will be more outrage. The good news is that we have had some positive first communications with some people we are hoping can fix this. The trail will never come back. It is destroyed. But what I hope is that its death can be the catalyst to bring some much need attention and resources to Cutler.

Here is what needs to happen.

• The trail needs to be rerouted and fixed (or a new trail built) to connect the original trail to the inner trails of the park

• The erosion throughout the park needs to be managed and fixed

• The boardwalks need to be rebuilt and repaired so they last more than one season

• A new boardwalk needs to be built to connect the "Island" to the railroad tunnel.

• A plan on how to keep the trails preserved into the future needs to be crafted.

It is so hard for me to swallow this. I am going to try and look at the good times we all shared instead of the heartbreaking loss we just endured. I am hopeful we can rebuild and develop a trail that is just as good as the old one.

In the interim contact DCR, MassDot and Nemba and let them know you are not happy about the loss of one of our trails and to help push them to develop a new trail and to repair Cutler to the level it once was.

Here are some phone numbers and contact info:

John Jacoppo, DCR

Tom Bender, S Coast District Ranger - 617-698-1802 X 212

Kevin Hollenbeck, DCR District Manager, 617-333-7404 X 105

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