By Marjorie Turner Hollman (courtesy of Bellingham Bulletin)
The Upper Charles River bike path originates in downtown Milford. Close to three miles at present, the paved trail is part of a planned non-motorized system that will eventually stretch from Milford to Framingham. Construction on the section connecting the trail to the headwater of the Charles, Echo Lake, in Hopkinton, has been completed, with parking north of 495 on Rt. 85 just over the line in Hopkinton.
Another entrance to the bike path is at Louisa Lake on Dilla Street, near 495, and in downtown Milford. From Bellingham take 495 north to exit 20 (Rt. 85) and turn left onto 85—you’ll see part of the trail as it crosses under the highway at this point. Dilla Street is the first street on your right—Wendy’s restaurant is at the corner of Dilla Street. Turn right on Dilla Street to Louisa Lake on your right, about one mile. You’ll see bike-crossing signs and a substantial parking lot. The lake is at the mid-point of the trail.
The downtown entrance is on Rt. 16 in downtown Milford. From Bellingham take Rt. 140 to Rt. 16 and turn right toward downtown Milford. Continue on Rt. 16, past Town Hall. Within sight of Sacred Heart Church, just before the light for Beach Street, look for a large commuter/business parking lot on the left—commonly known as the entrance to Fino Field. Inside the parking area you’ll see large signs for the Upper Charles Trail.
The trail through Milford offers surprisingly lovely water views of the Charles River watershed. Near the downtown area the landscape is rather marshy, which attracts lots of waterfowl. We saw signs warning of waterfowl hunting season when we visited, so use caution during winter months. Besides the lovely water views, look for the bicycle made from steel rebar in front of the Barker Steel Company; a whimsical touch, the bike would surely provide a bumpy ride. There are benches along the trail and picnic tables at Louisa Lake.
Dogs must be leashed, and “poop bags” are provided along the trail. Please use them! We saw no bathrooms in evidence, but there are businesses such as Dunkin’ Donuts at the beginning of the trail in the downtown area that would surely appreciate your patronage.
The bike path crosses several streets so caution is required, but drivers seem to be aware of the state laws requiring them to stop for pedestrians; care is still needed since these are busy roads. Even on the blustery day we visited there were other people enjoying the trail. Its easy, flat topography reflects the engineering of the rail beds it was mostly built upon.
As we headed toward the downtown from Louisa Lake we came upon a small spit of land jutting into the marshland—Clark’s Island. It offered a small “off-road” jaunt as a break from the paved trail. Amazingly quiet, the Upper Charles Bike trail supplied lots of surprises when we visited. When the seasons change, it will surely offer even more.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com