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Meeting to plan rail trail junction; Plan needs OK for vital link-up.

Byline: Donna Boynton

BLACKSTONE - Blackstone is one of the smaller communities in the Blackstone Valley, but it is positioned to play a key role in connecting rail-trail systems that cross the region.

Blackstone sits at the intersection of the east-west Grand Trunk Trail and the Southern New England Trunkline Trail. In addition, Blackstone is part of the north-south Blackstone River Bikeway.

Trail advocacy groups from Franklin to Sturbridge, residents from across the region and local and state officials will meet Thursday at the Blackstone Public Library, 86 Main St., at 7 p.m. to discuss the importance of the intersection of those trails in Blackstone - and how connecting trail systems will be one more link in the chain to creating the larger Titanic Rail Trail from Palmer to Franklin.

The Southern New England Trunkline Trail is owned by the state of Massachusetts and runs from Franklin into Thompson, Conn. The SNETT is not paved, and has been used by ATV and horse riders. Rail-trail advocates are promoting a non-motorized use for that trail.

"Our goal is to collaborate with local trail groups to build the non-motorized 60- to 80-mile east-west `Titanic Rail Trail' linking the Blackstone Valley with the Pioneer Valley," said Pat McGarrah, president of the Grand Trunk Trail Blazers. "It will be an incredible southern-tier trail and it's time to push for its completion."

Mr. McGarrah said there are three major east-west trails in the area: The Mass Central Rail Trail, the Grand Trunk Trail and Connecticut's Airline Trail. The SNETT intersects the Airline Trail in Connecticut and the Grand Trunk Trail in Blackstone.

"Blackstone has a lot of river and rail crossing. It makes sense, given Blackstone's history with the railroads and industrial revolution, and there is a lot of work to be done," said Mr. McGarrah, adding that he hopes money can be raised to complete the work to clear the trails. The first step to doing that is to gauge the local level of interest, and form a group dedicated to that effort, such as those that have already formed in Franklin, Brimfield, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Webster and Dudley.

Metacomet Land Trust has been working with the Grand Trunk Trail Blazers in its effort.

"Metacomet Land Trust works in many of the communities that the trail passes through," said Lisa Mosczynski, president of the land trust. "We work in 13 communities but what is most significant about this trail network is that its crossroads will happen in Blackstone. It's important that we help folks understand the significance of this intersection and urge them to participate in how the trails develop - and make sure they get completed in the very near future."

Ms. Mosczynksi said that, because the state owns the SNETT, it is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. Therefore, any plans to upgrade the trail will have to be approved by that agency.

"If those trails are connected, you could leave Palmer one day, bike to Blackstone, and head south to Providence or north to Worcester," said Ms. Mosczynski.

The trail connection also opens other economic opportunities, such as the need for small service businesses. Ms. Mosczynski said the trial would spur the creation of bicycle supply shops, small restaurants and other recreational services in Blackstone and along the trailway system.

"This also reduces our carbon footprint and promotes green energy," said Ms. Mosczynski. "It gets people out of their cars and on the ground."

The Titanic Rail Trail is named in honor of Grand Trunk Railway President Charles M. Hays, who was building a railway linking a port in Providence to Grand Trunk's Central Vermont Railway in Palmer. Mr. Hays was returning from a business trip on the Titanic when it sank, and with the Grand Trunk name already in use, the Trail Blazers opted for the Titanic Rail Trail instead.

ART: MAP

CUTLINE: Titanic Rail Trail

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/VILAYPHET KRUOCH
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Mr.Bob
Angry Bob (Member): I'm sorry to here this news. 9/12/2009 12:15 PM
These trails have long been used for the recreational purposes of dirtbiking and ATVing. Why doucn't we share the trails? Hodges river dam trails on Oxford has trails that dirtbikes and bicyclists can share. I don't see why dirtbikes should be prohibited since, when we see a cyclist or pedestrian we curtiously slow down and pass by. I have riding these trails many times and they area a fun why to get out and enjoy the outdoors. but saying that dirtbikes and ATVs aren't "eco-friendly" is a slap in the face to some of us who don't view walking and bicycling as pick of recreation.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 20, 2009
Words:654
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