Dedham water loop trail project soon to be completed

August 20, 2012 - The Dedham Water Trail, an idea more than 10 years in the making, is about to become a reality.
The rowing loop trail, which follows the Charles River around most of Riverdale, was the brainchild of Conservation Commissioner Jonathan Briggs. It finally got its oars in the water after the town hired Environmental Coordinator Virginia LeClair in 2007.
Briggs had long wanted to give Dedham residents easier access to the Charles, which was the number one request in a 2005 open space survey.
He also took offense at a depiction of Dedham’s part of the Charles River in a guidebook of that waterway.
“The author describes this part of the river as ‘accosting his senses,’ as he comes up to Route 1 with industrial and shopping centers,” Briggs said.
The name of the book escaped Briggs, but he said he wanted to improve Dedham’s part of the Charles so it would not ‘accost the senses.’
LeClair was able to look for grant opportunities, and secured a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
She applied for the grant in 2008, and it was approved in 2010 in the amount of $35,251. Matching funds were made available by private donors including NewBridge on the Charles, Dedham Savings Bank and the Dedham Land Trust.
The money is being used primarily to clean up the town launch site at the end of Bullard Street beyond the Allin Congregational Church. That project should be complete by the end of July, according to Briggs and LeClair.
Construction at the site had been delayed because the site was moved from one side of the river to the other, according to LeClair. The hope is that another launch site at the Dolan Center on Common Street will be rehabilitated by this fall, and will allow handicapped access to the river.
Signs will also be placed at 16 sites along the Charles and a narrow waterway called “Long Ditch” that runs through Cutler Park and closes the loop. Sites of interest include five launch sites in Dedham as well as connectors to walking trails through Whitcomb Woods, Wilson Mountain and NewBridge on the Charles.
LeClair said the Charles River Watershed Association was on board as soon as they heard about the plan.
“The thought this was a great way to get more people on the river,” LeClair said. “People then become stewards of the river, wanting to care for the river.”
A website for the project, dedhamtrails.org, will be operational at the end of July.
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