Town Outlines Plan for Haggetts Pond Rail Trail at Community Forum
The goal of creating an accessible trail that can be enjoyed by residents of all ages and abilities has been a longstanding priority of the Town of Andover, the Commission on Disability, and community advocates. Despite Andover’s extensive network of recreation trails, none currently meet accessibility standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB), limiting the opportunities for residents with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors within the community.
Through a comprehensive process that took place nearly a decade ago and that involved extensive participation from residents with physical, sensory, and cognitive functional limitations, the railbed along the western edge of Haggetts Pond was selected as the most suitable location for an accessible trail. The limited grade of the trail and its relatively straight trajectory were significant factors in the site’s selection over other trails considered through this process.
In 2016, the Town of Andover commissioned a review for inclusive design of an improved rail trail at Haggetts Pond. The study was conducted by the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD), a consulting firm specializing in expanding opportunity and enhancing experiences for people of all ages, abilities and cultures through design. A final report from the study release in January 2017 details challenges to accessibility along the existing trail, and opportunities for improvement.
The Haggetts Pond Rail Trail project gained momentum this year with the Town of Andover’s receipt of a $500,000 grant through the Commonwealth MassTrails program and a subsequent reallocation of ARPA funds to support construction of the trail. With design of the trail now in full swing, the Town convened a community meeting on Wednesday, August 16 at Memorial Hall Library to discuss the scope and objectives of the project, and to gather feedback from the community.
Director of Facilities Janet Nicosia, Director of Public Works Christopher Cronin, and David Biancavilla of BSC Group, an engineering firm hired by the Town to design the trail, presented an overview of the project at the start of the meeting.
According to presenters, the objectives of the project are to improve the accessibility of the existing trail, improve parking at the site, and to establish a plan for maintenance of the trail following its construction.
The proposed trail would span 1.6 miles, beginning at Bellevue Road and ending at High Plain Road. Plans for the trail also include construction of a wooden boardwalk that will offer a scenic vantage point of Haggetts Pond.
As described during the meeting, plans for the trail call for the stretch to be paved using asphalt, and for the trail to be approximately 10 feet wide with an unpaved 1-foot shoulder on each side, consistent with MassDOT guidelines for the construction of multiuse trails.
The project also contemplates the improvements to existing parking areas around Haggetts Pond. Concepts for parking enhancements described during the meeting include adding a 20-space lot near the end of the trail at High Plain Road, relocating and expanding the lot on Haggetts Pond Road, and adding a lot on Bellevue Street. All proposed lots would include handicapped parking sports.
The parking options being considered would be located within the trail’s right of way. As noted by David Biancavilla, the addition of new lots is intended to alleviate the current situation whereby Haggetts Pond Road and surrounding streets face a disproportionate impact from vehicles attempting to locate parking to access the trail.
The Town intends to continue soliciting input on the design of the project throughout the coming months and will seek permitting from the Conservation Commission for the project this fall. It is anticipated that construction of the project will take place next year. The portion of the trail funded through the MassTrails Grant, which begins at Haggetts Pond Road and extends approximately 4,500 towards High Plain Road, must be constructed by June 30, 2024 under the conditions of the grant.
While generally expressing support for the objective of creating an ADA accessible recreation trail in Andover, a number of residents in attendance during the community meeting asked questions and raised concerns related to the material used for paving the path, the project’s potential impact to the Town’s water supply, the location of parking lots, the width of the trail, and the potential removal of trees to accommodate the path.
The Town has committed to hosting another public forum in the coming weeks to discuss concerns raised by residents. Details of this event will be announced soon.