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A car-free path to North Shore beaches gets a $1.5M boost

LYNN – A $12 million rail trail that would connect the city to four communities received a $1.5 million boost this week.

The Baker administration released the cash to fund design of the Northern Strand Community Trail in Lynn, Everett, Malden, Revere, and Saugus.

“This is huge,” said Clay Larson, project director of Bike to the Sea, a nonprofit who have been working for 25 years to promote construction of the bike and pedestrian trail from Malden to the Lynn and Revere waterfront. “It’s exciting because for the first time, the state is looking at the trail as one project. Up until now, each community has been developing it on their own.”

When completed in 2020, the trail will span 12 miles along the former Saugus Branch Railroad which operated from 1853 to 1958.

The governor said the initiative is the latest effort of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team (LEAD Team) to focus attention and resources on the city.

Rail trails have faced opposition from home and business owners in some communities who fear the impact of cyclists and other trail users.

Last year, Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail tried to prevent the Board of Selectmen from signing a lease with the MBTA to convert the former Newburyport Branch railroad into a rail trail. They lost by one vote in Town Meeting. A similar effort to block a rail trail in Swampscott also failed.

The funding for the Lynn trail, awarded through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Gateway City Parks program, enables the pathway’s design, development of construction documents, and receipt of permits.

Everett has received a previous award of $250,000 to pave their portion of the trail. In Malden, the $1.2 million paving expense was paid for through the local meals tax. In Revere and Saugus the trail is gravel. In Lynn, the rails must be removed and before the pathway is paved.

City Councilor Peter Capano said the trail has been a priority for his Ward 6 neighborhood for years, in part, because the railroad tracks face homes. He hopes the design of the trail will bring much needed improvement to the district, he said. He praised resident Lisa Wallace, who he credits with helping to make the trail a reality.

“There’s never been enough money to make improvements in this part of Lynn,” he said. “The trail will not only do that, but also accommodate people who walk to the nearby Market Basket.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said the funds allow the stalled project to include Lynn as part of the rail trail.

“This trail, which has been an urban scar and missing link to the trail, will provide cyclists and pedestrians a recreational path that is family-friendly and will be an asset to our community,”  Cahill said in a statement.

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