Response to the Upper Charles Trail Committee’s (UCTC’s) FAQ Sheets

The Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) has produced a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet about their proposed location of the Upper Charles Trail down and across Hayden Rowe Street.  Below, the Trails Club corrects inaccuracies in the UCTC responses, and addresses the UCTC’s failure to accurately address key points of the discussion about connecting the Center Trail to Milford.

Map: UCTC proposed route and Trails Club proposed western alternative

1.  Regarding the UCTC’s Planned Three Crossings of Hayden Rowe

Key Point:  Good safety practice is to avoid risks whenever possible, and to mitigate risks only as a last resort; the Trails Club alternative in the woods to the west of Charlesview avoids the three crossings of Hayden Rowe and, therefore, is much safer than the UCTC’s route.

The UCTC’s plan appears to propose crossing Hayden Rowe Street three times: once at EMC park, once at Granite Street, and then a third time at either 147 or 192 Hayden Rowe, depending on whether the trail is on the east or west side of the road.  The UCTC indicates that the crossing at EMC park already exists.  Each crossing of Hayden Rowe increases safety risks and adds to the traffic concerns on an already heavily traveled main artery through Hopkinton.  Two serious car-on-pedestrian crashes (one resulting in the death of a child) already have occurred on this stretch of road and the addition of a major trail along and across the road will increase pedestrian travel and risk.  In both car-on-pedestrian crashes, the pedestrians that were hit by cars in this area were walking across Hayden Rowe.  It is immaterial that the drivers were later found to be negligent.  

2. Regarding the proposed alignment on Hayden Rowe requiring property taking.

Key Point:  Existing boundary markers are 12 feet off the existing roadway, meaning the UCTC’s 17 foot trail plus buffer simply cannot fit in the right of way and will require property takings or extensive, costly, and extremely disruptive major re-alignment of Hayden Rowe.
While the UCTC notes that road reconstruction may be possible, the Trails Club does not think that reconstruction of Hayden Rowe, a very costly endeavor, makes much sense and would be appreciated by the neighbors and residents with children in the adjacent schools.  With regards to the overall right of way issues, and the need for land takings, the waffling in the language of the UCTC response misses the simple fact that land court boundary markers (acknowledged by the town engineer as the gold standard of surveying) sit about midpoint along their proposed route on Hayden Rowe and are 12 feet off the existing roadway, meaning their 17 foot trail plus buffer simply cannot fit in the right of way.   

3. Regarding whether the trail can be on the Irvine Todaro property

Key Point:  The school district’s needs and desires should be decided before building the Upper Charles Trail on this property.

The town owns this land and a trail is certainly one option.  However, the School Committee voted unanimously not to support the UCTC’s proposed trail route (Segment 6 of UCTC’s overall route).  The town is considering a new school in this area and there are substantial wetlands in the area.  Certainly the needs and decisions of the school district should be placed before a single dollar, never mind the $411,600 that the UCTC is requesting at this year’s town meeting is spent on trail work.  Finally, the UCTC’s proposed trail through this property (Segment 6) makes no sense unless and until a decision is definitively made to run the Upper Charles Trail down Hayden Rowe (Segment 7).

4.  Regarding the Trails Club Proposed Route west of Charlesview

Key Point:  The two owners of property essential for any trail in the woods west of Charlesview have previously and continue to express a willingness to work with the town on a trail through this land.

This UCTC’s FAQ sheets contain numerous inaccuracies on this issue.  The UCTC leadership apparently approached one property owner who was uncomfortable with the trail; the other property owners have continued to express a willingness to consider trails, including in meetings with former UCTC members and with Trails Club members, and most recently, at a March 16, 2022, UCTC meeting.  In 2017, residents did express concerns about trails, but that response was focused on a trail on Joseph Road and the potential for folks from outside the neighborhood to park and walk on the streets and sidewalks of the neighborhood.  The current proposed trail route is around the neighborhood, not through it.  
Finally, with regards to the south end of the trail, as the UCTC noted, the initial bridge evaluation done by the UCTC’s consultant was somehow done at the wrong location.  Further work has recently been done by VHB which suggests that the Trails Club option, including costs for a bridge would likely be cheaper than the UCTC option through the College Rock woods.  

5 and 6.  Regarding the issue that the town wants trails in the woods for recreational use, not transportation, and that the trails should be stone dust.

Key Point:  Hopkinton’s trail will primarily be used for recreational purposes, and should be developed with that primary use in mind.

As noted correctly by the UCTC, both paved and stone dust trails have advantages and disadvantages.  The key factor to consider is the trail’s primary purpose, which in Hopkinton’s case, is for recreation, not transportation.  Stone dust trails are not as common as paved trails, but are a destination for runners in places where they exist (Holliston).  Stone dust trails require slower bike speeds; in places like Lexington (Minuteman Trail) and Arlington, where trails are commuter routes, the speeds on these paved trails are often not commensurate with leisurely recreational use.  

7.  Regarding delaying submission of the ENF.

Key Point:  Funds should not have been spent on an ENF before it was determined to be necessary and before the trail route is established.

The ENF is a costly document to prepare, and while the Trails Club appreciates the UCTC delaying submittal, as an ENF is only required for 7 miles of impervious surface, we are unclear why the UCTC would spend funds toward an ENF before deciding the trail surface or route, and whether an ENF is even necessary.  

8.  Parking

We have no issues with the UCTC needing to consider parking.

9.  Construction Costs

Key Point:  A stone dust trail focused on recreational use is one tenth the cost a paved commuter-focused trail, primarily as a result of overly and unnecessarily detailed planning.

At the UCTC’s meeting on January 19, 2022, Mr. LaGoy, who constructed the Center Trail, Hughes Farm Trail, and Echo trail in town (over 2 miles of trails), presented information on trail construction costs, showing that these trails cost $150,000 per mile, over 10-fold less than estimates from the UCTC’s consultant VHB for the Upper Charles Trail ($3.2 million for 1.3 miles of Segments 5 and 6 or $2.4 million/mile; from a UCTC presentation to Hopkinton’s CPC).  Mr. LaGoy explained that the main factor in the difference was the level of detail.  For example, on the Center Trail, the town engineer suggested a full survey of the route, yet as the town owned a 60 foot right of way and the trail was to be 10 feet wide and centered on that land, a survey was unnecessary, saving the town tens of thousands of dollars.  Engineering firms make roughly 10-25% of the total project costs, so of course they are proponents of the more expensive DOT roadway-type approach.  That approach is simply unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive.