Prospect Street has been a huge barrier on the SNETT in Franklin for many years. When the trail was still a rail line, a bridge carried local traffic over the rail line. When the line fell into disuse, apparently it was easier (and short term was cheaper) to fill the rail line with dirt rather than repair the bridge. Since then, the SNETT has been getting developed as a rail trail, section by section,
but this barrier of dirt, around twenty feet in height, has made travel on the SNETT challenging, to say the least. This past week, the tunnel that facilitates travel between Franklin and Bellingham opened up to foot and bicycle traffic, and many of us have been taking a stroll to enjoy the result of years of hard work and advocacy that made this happen.
The railroad was built over 150 years ago. As we walked from Lake Street in
Bellingham towards the Franklin line and the tunnel, we pointed out to my grandchildren the telegraph poles still standing next to the trail. We talked about why they were there, how people communicated by telegraph, and why the poles were placed where they were.
We spotted some poison ivy and had a quick natural history lesson on the noxious plant. Practice, practice, and more practice to learn to recognize and avoid contact with this common woodland plant.
On the side of a pine tree we spotted the remnants of gypsy moth egg sacks. We were lucky this year not to have a huge influx of gypsy moths destroying foliage on area oaks, cherries and other trees. We count our blessings as we continue to make our way through the pandemic.
Our walk was noisier than previous walks lately–leaves are not only falling at an increasing rate–they are drying and offer that “rustling of fall leaves” sound that is the reminder that winter is coming.
We still spotted plenty of color, both remaining on some trees, or newly fallen on the ground. And some trees have yet to transform into the fall foliage we so love.
And then there is the tunnel. The Franklin/Bellingham Rail trail committee has worked tirelessly to assure this project was finished, along with DCR and the Massachusetts Legislature, which awarded funding for the project. Visitors not only will experience an enjoyable walk, but will gain an understanding of what has gone before. Take time to read the interpretive sign next to the tunnel.
The pole with warning bells posted above the trail, while decorative, is a replica of what would have been in place when the rail line was active. And yes, we tested the tunnel for echoes. No surprise, it works! You’ll have to visit for yourself to hear it, but rest assured, this tunnel will be ready for visitors for many years to come. Happy trails!
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.