norton rail trail

The Norton rail trail bike path.

It has been in the works for years, but the rail trail extension project planned in Mansfield and Norton is picking up steam.

A public hearing on plans for the trail is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at Norton Public Library, 68 East Main St. (Route 123).

The hearing, being held by the state Department of Transportation, Highway Division, will focus on design.

“The purpose of this hearing is to provide the public with the opportunity to become fully acquainted with the proposed Norton/Mansfield Rail Trail Extension project” and obtain feedback to review and consider, DOT officials said.

The proposed project is an extension of the existing two-mile Mansfield World War II Veterans Memorial Trail that ends just north of Fruit Street in Mansfield. The project is a 10 to 12-foot shared-use recreational path which will extend from the end of the existing trail in Mansfield to the intersection of Crane Street in Norton and improve multi-modal connectivity from the Mansfield Commuter Rail Station to the Myles Standish Industrial Park in Taunton.

The trail will provide year-round recreation for cyclists, wheelchair users, strollers, horseback riders, runners, walkers, birdwatchers, in-line skaters, and cross-country skiers.

The trail will also provide improved access to conservation commission-owned land, including Johnson Acres and Henrich Woods in Norton, as well as the Winthrop Dahl Nature Preserve owned by the Land Preservation Society in Norton.

Parking areas are proposed at several locations along the corridor.

A secure right-of-way is necessary for the project. Acquisitions and permanent or temporary easements will be required, and the towns of Mansfield and Norton are responsible for acquiring all needed rights in private or public lands. MassDOT’s policy concerning land acquisitions will be discussed at this hearing.

An engineer will be present at the hearing to answer questions regarding this project.

Written statements will be accepted at the hearing.

Meanwhile, the World War II Veterans Memorial bike path in Mansfield will see a project that will connect the trail pathway from the Mansfield Municipal Airport to the downtown and MBTA Commuter rail station.

The path will be extended from East Street through Fairfield Park to Court Street, to fill a gap between two other paths to the north and south on the multi-purpose trail with the help of a $265,000 state Mass Trails grant.

“This area is one of the most heavily used portions of our multipurpose trail, and with this grant bikers and walkers will soon enjoy an extension of a safe route through this additional area,” town officials said.

Funded through the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the MassTrails Grants program focuses on improving existing trails, constructing new trails, and maintenance.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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