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Jon Kinson, a 56-year-old Franklin resident and avid cyclist, was surprised to learn last Thursday that the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Chelmsford was temporarily closed due to repairs.
Jon Kinson, a 56-year-old Franklin resident and avid cyclist, was surprised to learn last Thursday that the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Chelmsford was temporarily closed due to repairs.

CHELMSFORD — With warmer in the forecast this week, and COVID-19 restrictions loosening, thousands of local residents will be looking to hit the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

One obstacle: The 5.2 mile Chelmsford stretch is closed for repairs. If all goes well, the repaired sections will be repaved and then reopened in mid-to-late April, or possibly into early May.

Several fences and obstacles have been placed at road crossings requesting people stay off the paved trail.

The repair work is only being done in Chelmsford. Phase 1 of the trail, a 6.8 mile stretch from Lowell to Westford, opened in 2009.

For now, Chelmsford Department of Public Works officials are asking that the public stay off the trail. The trail is popular with walkers, cyclists, runners and roller skaters who use the 10-foot wide path for recreation.

The Chelmsford DPW is doing the project with help from a MassTrails grant. The grant is paying for 80% of the project, with the town of Chelmsford covering the other 20%.

Melissa Joyce, the sustainability manager of the Chelmsford DPW, said about 2,000 feet of the path is being replaced due to root incursions which create ripples in the pavement.

“We definitely had complaints about the root incursions,” Joyce said. “I think people have been really good about understanding. But there’s always going to be people who are surprised.”

To that end, signs have been placed at several road crossings.

“We understand that people are chomping at the bit” to leave their houses and get fresh air, Joyce said.

For the next two weeks, DPW workers will remove sections of pavement on the trail from Maple Road to the Westford town line.

When the asphalt plant opens in early April, repaving of excavated sections will start. Repaving will begin starting at the Lowell/Chelmsford line and proceed south toward Chelmsford Center. Trail sections will open sequentially when work is completed.

The town has tried to spread the word on social media that the rail trail is under repair in many locations. Not everyone has received the message.

Last Thursday, with temperatures rising into the 40s, 56-year-old Jon Kinson, an avid cyclist, drove to the trail’s starting point in Lowell to get a ride in, but was surprised to learn of the repairs.

“I was disappointed the Freeman trail was closed as I traveled up from Franklin to meet and ride with a friend,” Kinson said. “However, it is nice to see work being done as this bike path is very popular.”

The town is asking for people to be patient, to stay off trail sections under repair, and to not remove fences and barriers. If the Chelmsford DPW crew is able to work without interruptions, the trail will reopen quicker.

Work began late last fall.

“It’s such a great resource,” Joyce said. “This work will ensure the safety and full use of the trail for many years into the future.”

Phase 2A of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail opened in 2018. That 4.9-mile stretch goes into Westford, Carlisle and Acton. Ultimately, the trail will also connect to a path that extends into Concord, Sudbury and Framingham.

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