GROTON — Thanks to a new grant from MassTrails, the third phase of the Squannacook River Rail Trail is expected to be completed next spring.
On Tuesday, June 28, Squanacook Greenways, the non-profit organization that operates the trail, received $96,000 to help continue construction of the trail. The grant is expected to cover a significant portion of the costs for a section of the trail that extends south from Crosswinds Drive to the Bertozzi Wildlife Management Area.
Squanacook Greenways President Peter Cunningham shared his enthusiasm for the grant and noted its importance to the continued construction of the trail.
“We are very happy to receive the grant, very grateful to MassTrails,” Cunningham said. “That’s it – they’re huge, contributions like that.”
“(Squannacook Greenways) is a non-profit organization – we fundraise when we can – but, ultimately, we need significant contributions and resources like this to develop and build the trail,” did he declare.
Due to the Community Preservation Act, Groton will also match 20% of the grant. Cunningham thanked the city for its contribution, as well as the senses. John Cronin, D-Lunenburg, Ed Kennedy, D-Lowell, and former Rep. Sheila Harrington for their support and praised their ability to secure funds for the trail.
Construction is expected to begin in November and be completed in the spring. Cunningham said he expected phase three to open to the public in March 2023, with the trail’s fourth and final phase, which will connect Crosswinds Drive to South Street in Townsend, due for completion in 2024.
Cunningham noted that construction is limited to a winter period because the area around the trail, due to its turtle population, is designated as an area of critical environmental concern. With this in mind, he further highlighted the importance of the grant as it was tied to completing the construction of the trail as soon as possible.
“That money obviously needs to be available during that build window,” he said. “So these grants, they make it so much easier for us.”
Cunningham called the trail an “important” part of the communities of Groton and Townsend and said that come spring he looks forward to its expanded use. He also said the safe path the trail can provide for pedestrians along Highway 119 is a “real benefit to the community.”
“The connection between (Groton and Townsend), to me, at least, means something,” he said. “People who are interested in hiking, or even just getting outside – walking dogs, biking, whatever – this will be a great resource for them.”
“There really is no pedestrian access to many of these areas, just Route 119 which is a busy road. And with gas nearly $5 a gallon, it’s nice to have a safer option for those who don’t want to jump in the car,” he said.
Once phase three is complete, Cunningham said the trail could extend further south into Ayer as well. He called it the “big vision” for Squannacook Greenways, but said that for now they were focused on the task at hand.
“Once this section of the trail is complete, there is potential for expansion further into Ayer,” he said. “Right now, of course, we’re focused on finishing what we’ve already started, but being able to do that would be great.”