Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bay Circuit Trail: Bedford MA Narrow Gauge Rail Trail.

The Narrow Gauge Rail Trail section of the Bay Circuit may well be one of its most striking success stories. 

I took a hike there on 9/11 as Benghazi was aflame and I was stunned to see how vivacious it is on a late summer Tuesday. And it threads through some fairly affluent home areas with a general sense that the trail is a cherished amenity that adds value.

This value is further increased by the run of abutting conservation areas one can visit along the upper two thirds of the route.

Buehler Ponds Conservation Area is the northernmost gift along the trail.

"The Buehler Ponds Conservation Area includes a a 6.4-acre parcel purchased in 1978 with State Self-Help funding and an adjoining 3-acre parcel acquired as a gift in 1987. The .96-acre Lane Farm Conservation Area was donated in 2008, and includes a portion of the upper pond shore and trail. Located adjacent to the north-south railroad bed, these sites contains upland forest, two man-made ponds, gneiss bedrock outcrops marked by glacial scupting, and trails leading around the ponds and south to Job Lane School."

Courtesy of the Bedford Conservation Commission.

The Bay Circuit joins the rail bed from the east via the Governor Winthrop parcel, a short distance south of the Buehler trailhead.

The middle section of the trail begins at Fawn Lake when you are heading south.

"The most visible and valuable conservation area in Bedford owes its popularity to the park-like setting with trails around a 12-acre pond, 2-acre lawn and 25-acre forest, purchased in 1979 with State Self-Help funding. The gift of the 3.5-acre Sheldon Conservation Area in 1992 established a valuable 2.3-acre buffer between Fawn Lake and nearby residential areas. A shrub swamp on the property provides habitat quite different from the Fawn Lake area, and preservation of woodland and swamp on the side of the railroad bed opposite Fawn Lake is extremely important to preservation of the pond's visual attraction.

Fawn Lake's interesting past as a mineral springs health resort and early pharmaceutical center reminds the visitor that the lake has been a scenic and restorative attraction for over a century. Traces of the old mineral springs remain, but present use is more likely to be fishing, boating or strolling around the shore. Native vegetation predominates, and the shore is one of the best places in Bedford to see mountain laurel. Also scattered throughout the site are grand examples of former landscaping, such as Japanese maple, magnolia, wisteria and rhododendron. Parking is available on Sweetwater Avenue or the railroad bed."

Further south, the rail bed passes the Murray Otis York Conservation Area.

"This property was purchased by the Town in 1963 as surplus land from the federal government; partial reimbursement was acquired as Bedford's first State Self-Help Project. The land was conveyed for conservation use, and for some years the Town was required to report to the U.S. Department of the Interior on its status and maintenance. The land contains mature forest and both wooded and open wetland areas. York is accessible from the north-south railroad bed. New trails have been developed and bog bridges have been installed over the wetter areas."
Courtesy of the Bedford Conservation Commission.

Heading south from there, the Bay Circuit departs to cross Bedford center before joining the Reformatory Branch Trail while the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail has a smooth and seamless course to the grand trail junction at Bedford Depot and the Minuteman Bikeway.