By Beth David, Editor
The Shining Tides Mile extension of the Mattapoisett Rail Trail is finally officially open. People have been using it for a few weeks now, but the officials only got around to the ribbon cutting on Monday, choosing a spot by the Reservation Golf Club.
The new section, the east end of Phase 1B, continues the route from Mattapoisett Neck Road to Goodspeed Island Road. It means people can start at the Phoenix Bike Trail in Fairhaven at the Acushnet River, at the western end of South Street, and follow the bike path all the way to Mattapoisett Center. The plan is to continue through Marion to Wareham, and beyond.
But, for now, the Shining Tides Mile, which is the last leg of the 4.5 mile trail, is the focus. This last section took many years to complete and had other challenges, such as the materials being defective when they finally finished it last year.
Gareth Saunders of MassDOT welcomed the crowd of about 75 people, calling it a “very joyous occasion.”
Mass. State Representative William Straus, who is also a Mattapoisett resident and is chairperson of the Joint Committee on Transportation, emceed the event, and said the multi-use path is for everyone: “However you propel yourself.”
At its core, a bike path is part of the transportation system, said Rep. Straus.
He reviewed the history of the bike path, which started with a vision of a few locals in 1973.
It had many twists and turns (some literal) as advocates seemed to hit snag after snag. But they kept at it.
Rep. Straus noted that there were many tries at Town Meeting in Mattapoisett to stop the project. The opponents only had to succeed once, he said, and the project would have ended. But proponent of the bike path won every time.
The extension goes over marshland and estuaries and commands spectacular views of all nature has to offer. It was a bit of a permitting nightmare, and there was private property involved along the way.
Do not blame the YMCA, which has a facility along the path, said Mr. Straus. There was “plenty of permitting” to slow things down. But all that permitting, “made this a better path,” said Mr. Straus.
In the end, the Y donated land to the project.
MassDOT Secretary/CEO Gina Fiandaco said the project had a “lot of complexity,” and included hundreds of pilings in sensitive environmental areas.
“These things take time,” said Ms. Fiandaco. “And they take leadership, and they take champions.”
Audra Riding from Sen. Mark Montigny’s office, said she watched the Phoenix Bike Trail in Fairhaven being built because her uncle worked on the project. She “cherished” her bike, she said, and could not imagine a bike path.
“I guarantee you,” she said, that future generations of children, are going to say “wow” about this new bike path.
It was “an uphill battle,” for 19 years said Mattapoisett Select Board member Jordan Collyer, saying there were legal challenges and the “sheer logistics” of the project were huge. Eventually they got to a good place to get it done.
He said to be able to walk with his daughter from Depot Street to the neck without going on Route 6 was great.
“I wish I had it when I was her age,” he said.
“The usage has been through the roof,” said Mr. Collyer, who purposely drives by to see how many people are using it. “I just can’t believe the number of people that have come out and have come from as far away as they have just to come and take a look at the sheer beauty of the Mattapoisett waterfront and the marshes and everything that we have to offer. “
It could, however, put Mattapoisett on the map.
“Which is not what we wanted to do,” he joked, but said it was great to see the recognition and notoriety they are getting from it.
“What a special day to finally honor everyone who put in endless hours,” to get the extension finished, said Mattapoisett Select Board member Jodi Lynn Bauer.
People will come from far away to “enjoy these vistas,” said.
“Patience is the key,” said Ms. Bauer, because when the right time comes “it will be very beautiful and worth the wait.”
Rep. Straus noted that there is an incredible network of volunteers in various organizations who were also critical in getting the path finished.
Steve Kelleher, who is a founder going back to 1996, reviewed the path and the various twists and turns it took to get to completion.
He noted that the first bike path committee started in 1972, and was supposed to use 1976 Bicentennial money to build the bike path. But that failed.
He named many of the people who served on both committees.
He thanked the YMCA and the students at Old Colony who rebuilt some of Phase 1A when they “lost momentum.”
“Enjoy today and every day as time is very dear,” said Mr. Kelleher. “And keep riding as more bike paths are yet to come.”
John Gulliver, MassDOT Highway Administrator, said rail trails are one of the best projects MassDOT delivers because they have the “most meaning to the communities they are in.”
He said the Mattapoisett trail is beautiful because of its winding nature and views, but that is also what makes it challenging.
The point is to create a space that draws people in to use it.
He said “partnership is the word of the day,” noting all the different groups involved.
It results in a “fantastic investment in the long run,” said Mr. Gulliver. “That’s going to pay dividends for years and years and years to come.”
During the ceremony, many people used the bike path, walking, riding bicycles, using roller blades.
The Girouard family transported their bikes to the center of Fairhaven, near the Rogers School entrance to the Phoenix Bike Trail, and traveled to the end of the Mattapoisett Rail Trail.
As they were heading back, the family came upon the crowd that had just taken part in the ribbon cutting.
Mike Girouard used roller blades, three of their four children, ages 11 to 5, used their bicycles, and mom Sarah used her bike to tow young Gabriel in a bike trailer.
“It’s amazing,” said Sarah about the extension.
It allows “wide access,” said Mike, noting his roller blades, people in wheelchairs, bicycles, or walking.
Sarah said she had “peace of mind,” with the kids because they were not riding on a road.
“They know to stop at stop signs,” she said, adding they do ride in New Bedford, but it’s more fun on the bike path.
She cannot let them get too far ahead when they are riding in the city.
They both said they liked how close it was. They do not have to go all the way to the Cape or to Providence for a long ride.
“It’s really cool,” said Aiden, the eldest, adding he liked the bridges the best, and the “fresh wood.”
Lily said she liked the views and how the bridges went over the water.
“It’s really cool, and pretty,” she said.
Zachary agreed that the bridges and long stretches with no cars was a good thing because he gets to go fast.
Sarah said they used to go as far as the Shaw Farm Trail and hike the trail. But because the path turned to dirt just a bit east of there at Mattapoisett Neck Road, they had to stop and go back.
“Now we can keep going,” said Mike.
After the speechmaking, the group cut the ribbon on the bridge that had suffered so many materials challenges, resulting in a 20-year warranty on materials, said officials.
You can watch the ceremony on demand, recorded by Old Rochester Community TV at https://vimeo.com/835577468
To learn more about the bike path visit https://mattapoisettrailtrail.com
Click here to download the 6/15/23 issue: 06-15-23 BikePath
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal