Massapoag Trail Restored

Massapoag Trail

Since 2003, Sharon Friends of Conservation has been working with the Sharon Conservation Commission to improve one of the Town’s premier assets, the Massapoag Trail. As of this writing, I am pleased to announce that two major projects have been completed. With these, the entire trail from Pond St. to Belcher St. has been restored. There remain to do only a short boardwalk and few additional signs and blazes, which should be in place by mid-spring.

The two projects capping the effort were Eagle Scout projects by Jimmy Townsend and Jacob Archer assisted by their fellow Scouts. The trail from Mann’s Pond northward had originally been routed through some very soggy terrain on the north side of Billings St. For many years, the alternative route has been from Billings St. through Rob’s Lane and Brook Road. While this is a drier route, it is also one-way and has to be retraced on a hiker’s return. The original route was laid out in 1966 along the shoulder of Billings St. The shoulder trail was close to traffic and steeply inclined, and it had become marshy and impassable as it approached Devil’s Brook.

Jimmy Townsend installed steps down the Billings Street embankment as well as a series of boardwalks ranging from 8 to 85 feet. With advice from a Scout leader, Jimmy devised a clever system of prefabricating these walkways so that they could be installed quickly.

Massapoag Trail boardwalkThe final long boardwalk ended a few feet from the stream, enabling easy passage over the wet places. But a bridge over Devil’s Brook itself was still needed. SFOC tackled the 25-foot bridge and a short set of foot boards over a nearby rivulet. When this work was complete, all the soggy places were bridged over, and the trail continued onto higher ground. This trail work makes possible a round-trip walk from Mann’s Pond to the Frank A. Chase Bridge over the Massapoag Brook, with a return via Brook Road and Rob’s Lane. (Frank A. Chase was the first chairman of the Conservation Commission after its establishment in 1959.)

A second problem with the Massapoag Trail was the path from Pond St. Rotary to Ames St., near the playground. In the Halloween storm of 2011 many big trees and branches had fallen across the trail as well as into the Massapoag Brook running alongside the path. A long section of the trail had always been rocky and wet most of the year. This past October, Jacob Archer sought to remedy these problems. The most arduous efforts were removing large tree trunks using rope, cables, chain hoists, and chain saws, and clearing other ligneous obstructions from the stream. (Obstructions in the stream cause other floating debris, twigs and leaves, to pile up until an effective dam is created, restricting flow all downstream as well as flooding the trail.)

Jacob then built a 100-foot boardwalk over a wet stretch of the trail. I think he now holds the record for the longest continuous boardwalk construction on Town trails (followed by Jimmy Townsend with his 85-footer). Jacob also added a 16-foot span over a dip in the path.

While these just about conclude the Massapoag Trail restoration, credit is also due to the many other Scout projects that have contributed to the effort over the years. Thanks go to Greg Molica, who improved Devil’s Rock trails; Alex Hatcher, who installed two kiosks and a series of foot boards in the Cottage St area; Brendan Clifford, who blazed the new access trail in from Belcher St.; Eli Blumen, who cleared the trail from Mann’s Pond to Billings St.; Rahul Polu, who installed board steps on steep portions of the Billings Loop between Rob’s Lane and Billings Street and a kiosk with pictures of plant species; and Greg Zandrow, who improved the route from Mann’s Pond to Ames St. and installed the kiosk at the Mann’s Pond parking area. I’d like to also thank the DPW workers who hefted the huge 30-foot telephone poles that support the Frank A. Chase bridge and constructed a parking area for the new trail access point on Belcher St. I’m grateful also for the substantial help of SFOC’s faithful trail volunteers, who installed boardwalks, signs, blazes, and decking at the Frank A. Chase bridge over Massapoag Brook.

by Kurt Buermann