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A trail of travail; Proponents rally for Douglas-based trunkline.

Byline: Susan Spencer

Becky Kalagher, president of the 400-member Bay State Trail Riders Association, frequently rides Junior, her Tennessee walking horse Tennessee Walking Horse
 or Plantation Walking Horse

Breed of light horse with a distinctive, easy-to-sit gait, the running walk. It was developed for touring U.S. Southern plantations. It averages 15.2 hands (61 in.
, along the wooded Southern New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt.  Trunkline Trail near her Douglas home.

The 22-mile rail line, which was completed in 1854 to connect South Central Massachusetts and Connecticut, has become overgrown overgrown

said of a part that has not been kept trimmed.


overgrown hoof
overgrown hooves put unusual stresses on bones and tendons and allow for distortion of the wall and sole.
 since trains largely stopped running on it after 1969. The grade is uneven, drainage is poor, and dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles - using the trail in violation of state Department of Conservation and Recreation rules - create moguls and ruts in the loose dirt that can make for rough riding.

But the picture may change.

Ms. Kalagher and the Trail Riders have joined a new organization, Friends of the SNETT, to bring the DCR-owned connector, long overshadowed by other rail trails, back to life as a multi-use recreational trail. With volunteer labor, assistance from a federal grant and, the group hopes, state grant and "green commuting" transportation funding, the trail will be improved along its entire length from Douglas State Forest through Uxbridge, Millville, Blackstone, Bellingham and into Franklin State Forest.

"It's my dream before I'm 99 to ride the whole trail from Douglas to Franklin," Ms. Kalagher said.

"There's something different every time you come out here," she said. "It's a huge backbone of a trail system out here and it's just a gem."

The SNETT connects to the Mid-State Trail in Douglas, running north to New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E). , and to the Airline Trail that runs south from Thompson to Willimantic, Conn. It intersects with the developing Blackstone River Bikeway The Blackstone River Bikeway is a planned 48-mile paved trail defining the course of the East Coast Greenway through the Blackstone Valley from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island.  in Millville and Uxbridge, which could someday allow people to commute by bike to Worcester or Providence. As the easternmost section of the Titanic Rail Trail, formerly known as the Grand Trunk Grand Trunk can refer to:
  • The Grand Trunk Railway in North America
  • The Grand Trunk Road in South Asia
  • The Grand Trunk Company in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels
  • The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Canada
 Trail, hikers and bikers would be able to travel all the way to Palmer.

Ms. Kalagher said, "I think it's been overlooked because we haven't gotten the communities involved. We need to spread the word and let people know this exists."

Friends of the SNETT had planned this winter to host a trail summit in Blackstone to introduce the trail and its ongoing improvement plans to legislators and park officials, but both scheduled dates were canceled because of snowstorms.

In a 21st-century response, a "virtual trail summit" and blog was posted on the Friends of the SNETT website (www.snett.org).

The Bellingham Planning Department coordinates Friends of the SNETT, including hosting the (virtual) trail summit and working with community groups like the Trail Riders and the Franklin-Bellingham Rail Trail Committee to seek grants for trail improvements.

In October 2012, the Friends received a National Park Service technical assistance grant to create a coalition of SNETT supporters and develop an overall plan for the trail, which had previously been worked on in a piecemeal fashion.

Jean Keyes, Planning Board Noun 1. planning board - a board appointed to advise the chief administrator
advisory board

governance, governing body, organisation, administration, brass, establishment, organization - the persons (or committees or departments etc.
 coordinator, who works with Town Planner Stacey Wetstein on SNETT projects, said, "One of the goals was to improve town recreation."

She said in researching that focus, the planning staff found other groups that had been working on the trail, but not together.

Ms. Keyes said trail plans call for basic engineering improvements and laying stone dust, which when compacted can be ridden on by both fat- and skinny-tire bikes. Unlike asphalt, it also allows for horseback riding.

Raising awareness was the first step, however.

"The SNETT is not even listed on the DCR DCR Department of Conservation and Recreation
DCR Decrease
DCR Digital Cable Ready (television)
DCR Dark Crisis (Yu-Gi-Oh! cards)
DCR Debt Coverage Ratio
DCR Dacryocystorhinostomy
 website and it's their property," Ms. Keyes said. "It's a major connector major connector,
n See connector, major.
 trail. You'd be able to take the train from Boston to Franklin and take your bike all the way to Western Massachusetts. It's pretty surprising that nothing's been done with it."

Ms. Keyes said that ironically, after volunteers labored in obscurity on the SNETT for years, $9.9 million for SNETT improvements was included in Gov. Deval L. Patrick's proposed fiscal 2014 budget.

"Somehow it got communicated and the governor recognized what we were working toward," she said.

Charles Tracy, Massachusetts director of conservation assistance for the National Park Service, has been providing technical support to Friends of the SNETT under the federal grant. He said the Park Service's role is to pull together the communities involved with the project and support efforts to work on a comprehensive vision.

"One of the goals of the National Park Service is to promote close-to-home recreation," Mr. Tracy said. "It's (the SNETT) is a designated National Recreation Trail and is one of the state's best opportunities for a long-distance equestrian trail."

He added: "It's not as user-friendly as it could be in terms of parking and signage. All the basics are there but it's just not done yet."

Mr. Tracy recently signed on to a recreational trails program grant application submitted by Friends of the SNETT to the state DCR. The application, prepared by Ms. Kalagher, includes provisions for on-the-ground physical improvements on 2.67 miles of the trail in Douglas and development of a master plan for the entire SNETT. The total project costs more than $31,000.

Local representatives of the National Park Service support SNETT improvements as well.

Jan Reitsma, executive director of the former Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission and a Park Service superintendent, said: "I always thought this was huge opportunity not just to the Blackstone Valley but to ... The Last Green Valley (a National Heritage Corridor in Central Massachusetts and Eastern Connecticut)."

Mr. Reitsma said that the SNETT's connection to the Blackstone River Bikeway and rail trails reaching Connecticut and Western Massachusetts offers broad regional benefits.

"It also makes it possible to think about things like eco-tourism," he said, "so people come, explore and stay more than half a day."

Friends of the SNETT plan to hold multi-town events on National Trails Day, June 1. Mr. Tracy said the group is working with Girl Scout troops to install plantings at each of the trail entrances.

Ms. Kalagher said there will be a trail work day starting at 9 a.m. April 20, meeting (at 8:30) at the trail entrance on Depot Street in Douglas. Volunteers should bring gloves and yard tools such as long-handled loppers Loppers are a type of scissors used for pruning twigs and small branches. They are the largest type of manual garden cutting tool. They are usually operated with two hands, and the handles may be around 65 cm long to give good leverage. .

Ms. Kalagher also asked for help with historic preservation. She said improvement plans call for creating a kiosk commemorating the trail's rich history, including its notoriety as the site of the only four-train crash, just over the Connecticut state line in 1891, in the country. She asked that anyone who has train or other historic trail photos contact her at BSTRA BSTRA Ball Strut Tie Rod Assembly (NASA)
BSTRA Bay State Trail Riders Association, Inc (Douglas, MA) 
@charter.net or call (508) 476-3960.

The SNETT's taken a long time to get noticed and to see improvements. But, Mr. Tracy said, "There's a lot of great spirit and a lot of excitement about communities coming together to work on this. For me, that's always a good indicator of success."

Contact Susan Spencer at susan.spencer@telegram.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanSpencerTG.

ART: PHOTO; MAP

CUTLINE: (PHOTO) Becky Kalagher, president of the Bay State Trail Riders Association, rides her horse Junior on the Southern New England Trunkline Trail in Douglas. (MAP) Southern New England Trunkline Trail

PHOTOG pho·tog  
n. Informal
A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession; a photographer.
: (PHOTO) T&G Staff/BETTY JENEWIN (MAP) T&G Staff/DON LANDGREN JR.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1CT
Date:Mar 24, 2013
Words:1192
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