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Rail trail on tap for Special Town Meeting in Lynnfield

LYNNFIELD — For the first time in five years the town is on target to host a special town meeting with Sept. 26 the tentative date for debating $348,000 in rail trail design spending. 

Almost 300 residents signed a citizen petition circulated by the Friends of Lynnfield Rail Trail to put trail design spending before a special town meeting. The group filed the petition with the town clerk on Tuesday. 

Town Clerk Trudy Reid certified 209 petition signatures — nine above the threshold required to schedule a special town meeting. Board of Selectmen Chairman Philip Crawford said petitioners requested Thursday, Sept. 26 for the meeting, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. in the middle school. 

“Based on the ballot referendum last year, it should be fairly well attended,” said Crawford.

The last special town meeting was held in June 2014 to discuss the fate of the Centre Farm property in the town center. 

Crawford said the design estimate submitted in the petition mirrors trail design firm World Tech Engineering’s estimate for a trail design costing $700,000 with Lynnfield and Wakefield splitting the cost. 

The proposed wording for the design funding article is included in the petition Friends of Lynnfield Rail Trail circulated: “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, transfer from unappropriated available funds, transfer from available funds appropriated for other purposes, or otherwise, $348,000, to be expended under the direction of the Town Administrator for the purpose of completing Lynnfield’s share of the design and engineering of the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project to Massachusetts Department of Transportation standards, and for the purposes of any other costs associated with the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project, or act on anything relative thereto.”

Crawford said the town has several accounts to provide money for the trail. The Finance Committee voted 8-2 to endorse the special town meeting article. 

The Friends in a statement provided by member Patrick Curley stated: “Moving forward with Wakefield on the final design and permitting will result in the Rail Trail being ‘construction ready.’ At that point, the MassDOT can put the construction out to bid and proceed with spending the $10.3 (+) million currently allocated by the MassDOT for the construction of the Rail Trail.”

Supporters have prevailed over opponents in pushing the trail through design toward construction but not without a fight from trail detractors.

The trail won Town Meeting support by a single vote in 2017. A nonbinding referendum on the trail last April saw supporters prevail with 52 percent of the vote out of 3,538 votes cast. 

“That was a very strong turnout for a town election,” said Crawford.

Plans call for the 4.4-mile trail to include a 2.5-mile stretch along the former Newburyport Railroad with a 1.9 mile stretch running through Wakefield.

The trail would run from Route 128 in Wakefield through Reedy Meadow behind Lynnfield Middle School, across Summer Street at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, behind Lynnfield High School, across Pillings Pond Road just north of Wildwood Drive and into Peabody. 

 

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