Guest Editorial, Arlington Advocate, 2006
Aimed At Access For All
Since opening nearly fifteen years ago, the Minuteman Trail has become Arlington's main attraction - a three-mile continuous sidewalk of human movement that has come to define the Town of Arlington itself. But the needs of trail users do not take the winter off.
Pedestrians, who outnumber all other winter users combined, dominate winter use on the Minuteman Trail. This is made evident by a sea of icy footprints left on the unmaintained trail by those who use the path regardless of season or weather condition.
The Clear the Trail Initiative, along with the East Arlington Good Neighbor Committee, supports the Arlington Disability Commission's Warrant Article #9 requesting that the town integrate snow removal on the Minuteman Trail into their current snow removal program. We desire to see a cleared and safely passable trail. Access for all is our goal.
Year-round trail maintenance is not unprecedented. Neighboring communities of Somerville and Cambridge have managed to seamlessly integrate trail maintenance into their snow-removal plans, resulting in year-round access for both commuters and recreational users. Northampton recently implemented a snow removal plan on the two-mile Ryan Bikeway, recognizing that it was unwise public policy to allow the trail to remain snow-covered merely for the use of such limited groups as cross-country skiers. Local Arlington officials should desire a policy of inclusion that allows the Trail to be useable by all groups in all seasons.
A "closed for the winter" attitude towards trail maintenance that only benefits skiers does no one any favors. An unmaintained trail is impassable for both skiers and all other trail users alike, as people continue to trudge through the snow on a daily basis, trampling down the path with bumpy footprints. Icy conditions earlier this winter made the Trail exceedingly dangerous for even those prioritized winter users, and threatened serious injury to almost any who attempt access.
We thank A.P.W. employees for successfully plowing the Minuteman Trail from the Cambridge line to Lake Street, providing both clear and safe access for those commuting to Alewife T station, walking to the Hardy Elementary School, running errands or exercising. These crews also plow all the parking lots that abut the trail as well as the parking places and some of the paved playgrounds at our schools. Plowing the rest of the path would not add considerably to the town's plowing efforts, as the Minuteman Trail represents less than one half of one percent of the asphalt plowed in Arlington.
Due to the skill and care of DPW staff, the Alewife to Lake Street section of the trail that is already being plowed has suffered no damage. In Cambridge, where the entire path around Fresh Pond is maintained year-round, no salt is needed. Sand is more than enough to take care of the occasional icy patch. And as for the concern that skiers be able to use the path - such users could still ski on either side of the trail where the snow generally remains untouched by foot traffic.
We hope the Town of Arlington will consider a policy urging a more active populace in the future. A linear park like the Minuteman Trail, made accessible to users ranging from runners and walkers to bikers and skiers, would energize the neighborhood during our long, dark New England winters.
The Clear the Trail Initiative welcomes feedback from all users of the Minuteman Trail. Please visit www.clearthetrail.org and reach out to our Arlington Selectmen and town manger to reverse the current policy of exclusion and encourage access for all users.