GB NEMBA News
GB NEMBA news, events and updates
The open space that stretches from Waverly Square in Belmont to Walnut Street in Waltham is made up of 3 parcels of land, each with separate ownership, management and trail use policy. These three parcels include the McLean Open Space, Rock Meadow and the grounds of the old Met State Hospital now Beaver Brook North. Together they form a continuous system of trails that is easily accessible to Waverly Square in Belmont and provides a system of easy and intermediate mountain biking. As with most town conservation lands, these properties are used frequently by people who live near them but are not of any particular interest to riders from outside the area. They are not a meaningful destination and do not have the parking and other infrastructure necessary to support a high volume of use. They are discussed on this website because NEMBA has played a large role in keeping these trails open to cyclists and because we believe that making people aware of the issues is the best way to develop responsible use.
McLean Open Space
The McLean Open Space was formerly part of the grounds of McLean Hospital in Belmont. McLean Hospital is a private psychiatric hospital owned by Partners Healthcare System. The property is made up of 108 acres of open space and is now owned by the Town of Belmont. In the spring of 1996 Partners Healthcare Systems announced plans to divest or develop 190 acres of the 210-acre campus. In June of 1996 the Town of Belmont Selectmen formed a task force to guide the process of development. In the summer of 1997 McLean presented its first three options for development. None of the options were accepted by the Belmont task force because they all included development in the current open space. In May of 1998 McLean submitted a plan that mixed development with the preservation of a large portion of open space. This plan was latter refined and currently consists of 108 acres of protected open space. A committee known as the "Land Management Committee" manages the open space. The committee is composed of four members representing the town of Belmont, four members representing McLean and one independent third party member.
The open space is protected with a "Conservation Restriction" (CR). A CR is an easement, which prohibits certain uses on a parcel of land. In the case of the McLean Open Space a decision was made to grant the CR to a third party organization. The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) was selected to be the grantee of the CR and also to sit as the independent member of the Land Management Committee. On November 22, 1999 the Belmont board of Selectmen approved the McLean Land Use Documents including the CR. Unfortunately, the CR included language that prohibits the use of bicycles on the property except along paved paths at the perimeter of the property (which do not exist). This issue did not surface for the mountain bike community until January 2001 when David Kleinschmidt noticed the wording of the CR and brought it to the attention of GBNEMBA.
The first action that Greater Boston NEMBA took was to hold a public meeting to gather information and develop a plan. A petition was circulated for residents of Belmont to voice their interest in changing the wording of the CR. Eighty four signatures were collected in a little over one month. The Land Management Committee entertained our request for public comment on the wording of the CR and NEMBA representatives (David Kleinschmidt, Magnus Snorasen and Tom Grimble) began attending the meetings. At the first meeting, NEMBA prepared and distributed a resource packet that explained the advantages to having the presence of cyclists on this property. It also included published research articles which pertained to the effects of mountain bike use on trail systems. The issue and information were well received by the committee. NEMBA agreed to provide a professional trail assessment of the current trail system including recommendations for improvements. This extensive document was prepared and presented to the committee on October 17, 2001. Both documents mentioned above are available at the town library and trail assessment is availble on the town website. After a period of public comment the LMC prepared a revised Conservation Restriction which was passed by Town Meeting in April of 2002 and allows for bicycle access on approved trails. This was a milestone event for cyclists becuase although the decision to permit bicycles was not concluded, they were no longer legaly excluded.
For several years the LMC put the issue of bicycle access on the back burner. In late 2007 the LMC hired Pressley Associates, a professional landscape architecture firm with some experience in trail planning, to prepare a trail assessment and devlope a trail plan. This process included several opportunities for public comment. Tom Grimble continued to participate in this process as both a resident of Belmont and as a NEMBA member. The result of the trail plan was to permit cyclist acess to a large number of trails but to restrict access in a few areas. The LMC did a reasonable job of trying to provide fair access to cyclists while being responsive to a relatively small but vocal group of residents who preffered to ban bike altogether. It is a compromised result which was based as much on the politics of pleasing multiple constituents as it was on any other criteria.
Where we are now
The Land management Committee has created a number of sub-committees to develop various aspects of the land use policy. These committees will deal with issues such as signage, use policy, trail maintenance etc... NEMBA is not officialy represented at these meetings but there are individuals who are actively involved and are also NEMBA members. NEMBA believes that the best way to provide assistance and maintain contact with land managers on town conservation lands is for individual residents to get involved. NEMBA is prepared to offer our assistance either with planning or executing trail maintenance projects where necessary. The LMC is planning to start holding trail maintenance events in the Spring of 2009 to implement the trail plan developed by Pressley Associates. It is the hope of the LMC that these projects will be completed by a diverse group of trail users including mountain bikers and NEMBA looks forward to helping in any way possible.
Documents and Links
Comprehensive Trail System Plan (Pressley Associates) Here
McLean Land Management Committee Website Here
NEMBA Trail Assessment Here
Judy Record Fund Here