The possibility of a buried pipeline cutting through Massachusetts has protesters fighting mad and taking to the streets.
The proposed pipeline, carrying up to 2.2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, would run from Wright, N.Y. across northern Massachusetts to Dracut. Feeder lines to other communities would extend from the main line.
The 50-foot right-of-way over the pipeline would cross private property, protected land and public roads.
The proposed route, presented in public meetings earlier this year by Kinder Morgan, the pipeline construction company, goes through 29 Massachusetts municipalities.
"Walking resisters" will relay a symbolic baton, a length of pipe containing a petition with over 10,000 signatures, through each of the towns. The protest walk began Sunday, July 6, in Richmond with an estimated 150 walkers.
The walk will end in Dracut on July 26 followed by a rally in Boston at the Statehouse on July 30.
Local coordinators are solidifying the walking routes, rallying supporters and contacting legislators to participate. The walk passes through Ashby on Sunday, July 20, Townsend the following day and Pepperell on July 22.
In Ashby and Pepperell, resolutions against the pipeline received unanimous support at town meetings. Townsend will hold a special town meeting on July 31 at Hawthorne Brook Middle School. The only item expected to be on the warrant is a resolution against the pipeline.
Opponents of the proposed pipeline have voiced concerns about property values, ecological impact and safety. During informational meetings, Kinder Morgan representatives said homeowners would receive a one-time payment for the use of their land.
Once the pipe is buried, no permanent structures could be built on the right-of-way with the monitored and maintained once installed.
Many affected residents do not want the pipeline.
"We are concerned about this as a town, not as individual landowners," said Roberta Flashman, a member of the Ashby Conservation Commission. "This will change Ashby."
Plans in the 3 towns
After getting the symbolic baton from Ashburnham, organizers in Ashby plan to cover much of the route proposed by Kinder Morgan. On the morning of July 20, at 10 a.m., walkers should meet at the common to shuttle to the walk's start at the top of Spring Hill Road. The route passes through the woods and over roads to reach the center of town.
Following a rally on the common, where people can eat picnic lunches and use lavatory facilities, the walk will resume along roads and paths to Trap Falls at Willard Brook State Forest where the baton will be passed to Townsend. A vehicle will accompany the walkers in case someone needs a ride.
Townsend's walk will take place in the late afternoon on July 21. Supporters, encouraged to wear red shirts, will gather at 5:45 p.m. on the common to shuttle to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Townsend and then walk back to the center. The march will have greater visibility during evening traffic than if it followed the proposed pipeline path through the woods, said organizer Leslie Gabrilska, interim agent for the Conservation Commission. Gabrilska and Emily Norton are planning speakers and activities on the common after the walk.
On July 22, walkers will meet at the North Middlesex Regional High School parking lot at 9:15 a.m. The walk begins at 9:45 a.m. and proceeds up Harbor Street to Shattuck Street to Jewett Street to Townsend Street to Pepperell Town Hall.
A group photo will be taken at noon at the Town Hall. Those who cannot walk can come and join the walkers in the photo.
At 1 p.m., the walk continues down Elm Street to a half-mile walk across the Keyes Farm Conservation Area. Walkers emerge at Gardner Farm, cross River Road to Canal Street to the Nashua River.
Environmentalist Marion Stoddart will row the baton to the opposite shore and deliver it to the Groton marchers. The Groton leg of the walk takes place July 23. Organizers are encouraging other kayakers and canoeists to join Stoddart.
The Pepperell walk will total five miles. Parking will be available along the route to allow walkers to join at any point. Walkers can also park at or near Town Hall.
In addition to the large pipeline crossing the town, a spur pipe to New Hampshire is planned, said Russ Schott of the Nashoba Conservation Trust. It would cross the aquifer protection land for the Pepperell town wells.
All ages are encouraged to participate! Bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers and horses are welcome as are leashed dogs.
If the weather forces cancellation or delay of the event, a notice will be placed on the NashobaTrust.org website by 8 a.m. on the morning of the walk.
The Groton walk takes place July 23. Park at the Nashua River Watershed Association. At 4 p.m., the walk will start at the Petapawag boat launch on the Nashua River and proceed for an easy two-mile walk through Groton center to the common at the First Parish Church where refreshments ill be served, music will be played and the baton will be passed to Dunstable. Special guest: Marion Stoddart. Groton walk coordinator is Diane Hewitt, 978-448-6228 or email@example.com.
A rally at the Statehouse, meeting at the Boston Common, will be held July 30.
For more walk info: http://nashobatrust.org/statewide-pipeline-protest-walk/
General information: nofrackedgasinmass.org.
Nashoba staff contributed to this story.