On May 15, Town Meeting will vote on an article to fund the engineering and design of a public recreational trail including the acquisition of easement rights for the trail. We believe that development of this trail is a wise investment and a wonderful addition for Swampscott, providing long-term benefits to the town.

The development of a rail trail will increase the useable open space for people of all generations in every neighborhood. Trails such as this one have been shown to increase property values in neighboring areas, and are attractive features for new families. In addition, the town is in a very strong position to invest in the trail this year.

The vote at Town Meeting is to approve a one-time expenditure of $850,000 to make the trail a reality. Town Meeting will have the option to bond this cost or to pay it using available unallocated cash held by the town (so-called “free cash”). The annual debt service cost to the town will be approximately $65,000, or .1% of the town’s $67,000,000 annual budget. If funded using free cash, it will use only 13% of the available unallocated cash held by the town. Town Meeting will also vote to use our free cash to fund $2,000,000 into the town’s financial reserves, as well as to provide real estate tax relief. Recent developments such as the Hanover apartments and The Residence at Vinnin Square Assisted Living, have brought in significant new tax revenue and building fees, providing us with a long overdue opportunity to pursue quality of life improvements. We need to seize this opportunity to provide something that will benefit all neighborhoods and all generations in our town.

We have heard the concerns of people whose property abuts the proposed trail. Studies have shown that there are not increases in crime in neighborhoods with rail trails. The National Grid corridor running through town currently is approximately 35 feet wide at a minimum and 115 feet wide at its maximum. The finished rail trail will be a narrow 10 foot width trail running down the center of that corridor. The town’s intent is to make the trail minimally invasive to neighbors – engineering and design will be directed to minimize the effect of the trail on wildlife, environmentally sensitive areas, and properties next to the trail. In addition, Town representatives will meet with each abutting property owner individually as part of the engineering and design process.

As members of the Board of Selectmen, it is our responsibility to be stewards of Swampscott, and responsive to residents. Our representative Town Meeting has voted three times over four decades in favor of a rail trail. The time to say “yes” on funding a rail trail is now. Please join us in supporting Article 19 on this year’s Town Meeting warrant.

Naomi Dreeben, Chair

Laura Spathanas, Vice-Chair

Swampscott Board of Selectmen

Published: May 3, 2017, Swampscott Reporter online.