By Marjorie Turner Hollman (Courtesy of Bellingham Bulletin)
The Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) has its beginnings in Franklin, MA, on Grove Street, and continues through Bellingham, Blackstone, Millville, and on into Douglas and beyond. A nearly 60-mile-long proposed trail system, it would also have connections to the presently 14-mile-long Blackstone Canal Bikeway heading south into Rhode Island from Woonsocket, with plans for connecting trails north to Worcester.
To start at the beginning of the trail, take Rt. 140 toward Franklin. Just before the 495 overpass, turn right onto Grove Street. Travel two miles south and look for signs for the SNETT Trail on both sides of the road. Parking is on your left. From south Bellingham, take Pulaski Boulevard north toward Franklin. Shortly after Hillside Nursery turn left on Grove Street and drive one half mile. Parking will be on your right.
Because the trail, even in its rough form, consists of former rail lines, it is for the most part quite flat. However, over the years since the rail line has been abandoned, it’s become an ideal raceway for all-terrain vehicles. The ruts and large bumps on the trail make walking and bike riding challenging. On the initial Franklin section of the trail, from Grove Street to Spring Street, about 3/4-mile long, the trail has been slightly graded to remove the largest bumps. The parking lot across the street from the trail head, as well as a kiosk and benches at the beginning of the trail, are all there thanks to the town of Franklin, the Franklin Citizens Railtrail Committee, and local Boy Scouts.
My husband and I were able to ride our tandem bike comfortably over the initial 3/4-mile section of the SNETT. However, there are rocks remaining on the trail and soft patches that could create problems for young children, or for bikes with thin tires. Once we got to Spring Street, the next section leading to Prospect Street in Franklin was rather overgrown and has not been graded at all. The poison ivy was off-putting for us in our summer shorts and sandals. Perhaps once the plants have died back we will try this next section on our bike again.
There are wet spots farther on the Franklin section of the trail, and one must climb up and over the trail at Prospect Street for now, but there are also stone walls to see, impressive stone embankments built as retaining walls for the railroad, as well as lovely views near the Bellingham line. The Bellingham section of the SNETT trail is less developed, but with charms of its own.
Bellingham residents and other organizations from Bellingham are partnering with the Franklin Citizens Rail Trail Committee to create a regional organization, with the goal of making the SNETT a reality. Improvements to date have all come about because of the combined efforts of a group of interested citizens and community groups, with support from the Division of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which controls all the trail right-of-ways. Meetings are held monthly at the Hockomock YMCA in Franklin on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30PM. To participate, contact Marc Kaplan at email@example.com.
For information about the trail system and the groups working to develop the trail, check out these websites: http://www.slideshare.net/shersteve/franklin-rail-trail; http://www.Grandtrunktrailblazers.org; http://www.franklinrailtrail.org; http://www.trailLink.com (enter “SNETT”)
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.