The Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway (BCT) was initially proposed by The Trustees of Reservations in the late 1920s as a parkway forming an “outer emerald necklace” linking existing reservations around the Boston metropolitan area. Although a state parkway never came to be, a resurgence of interest by volunteers in the 1980’s led to the founding of the Bay Circuit Alliance (BCA) in 1990 and the eventual designation of a 230+ mile recreational trail spanning 37 towns from Newburyport to Duxbury.
In the fall of 2012, the Appalachian Mountain Club and The Trustees of Reservations, two of Massachusetts’ largest and oldest conservation organizations, began collaboratively leading the Bay Circuit Alliance to fulfill the vision of the Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway. Early in 2013, AMC’s Cartographer Larry Garland was tasked with collecting baseline data to serve the planning needs for corridor protection, trail management, stewardship, and positive user experience.
Field work was conducted between April 1 and June 5, 2013, as Mr. Garland inventoried the trail by on-the-ground field inspection. He walked virtually all of the off-road segments and most of the connecting on-road segments. Longer on-road segments and rail trails were spot-checked by car for access, signage, and utility. The assessment consisted of making point observations about particular features or elements, noting the existence (location) of features as well as the condition (quality) of most features and whether any deficiencies, problems, or issues were apparent. Over 1200 observations were recorded with more than 670 photos.
The BCT generally is in good condition, despite some localized areas that are not quite up to standard. Despite some “growing pains” related to stewardship and oversight, the Bay Circuit Trail is alive and well, enjoyed by users of different stripes, including: hikers, joggers, dog walkers, children in strollers, mountain bikers, roller bladers, snowshoers, cross country skiers, school and civic groups, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts. More than a trail, it is a multi-faceted cultural and recreational experience. There is both precedent and potential for incentivizing the host towns to protect more openspace and expand trail opportunities.
One outstanding benefit of the BCT is that it focuses attention on local neighborhoods as potential links in a regional greenbelt. It provides context for establishing a recreational corridor that infuses neighborhoods and connects communities. The accessibility of this outdoor resource provides opportunities for healthy lifestyle activities for more than 4 million people in eastern Massachusets. All these users collectively represent a large stakeholder base and an equally large stewardship and advocacy community.
The Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway has evolved to its current state by virtue of the passion and dedication of many committed volunteers who offer their time stewarding the trail, participating with local trails clubs or associations, sitting on local conservation commissions, or serving on land trust boards. These individuals are the champions of the BCT, and future efforts will necessarily build on this spirit of grassroots advocacy and support.
The BCT map below needs additional updating; in 2014 the Nunckatessett Greenway Committee facilitated a licensing agreement with the Haseotes Family and Mass Fish & Wildlife to officially open the Haseotes MassWildlife Trail between Scotland Street and Forest Street in West Bridgewater; those seven red circles can now become a solid red line of trail!