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Middleton Rail Trail FAQ

When did people start working on the creation of the Middleton Rail Trail?

Back in 2013 a group of Middleton residents got together to look into the feasibility of building a Rail Trail on the old abandoned Essex Rail Road in Middleton. A plan was developed to have the trail run along the old rail bed from the Danvers line along Maple St to the town line at Sharpner’s Pond Road in North Andover. The project was stalled for several years while Middleton Electric Light Department (MELD) bought the lease rights from the Town of Danvers for the portion of the rail bed that runs from Danvers to Essex Street. Now that MELD owns this portion, the planning process for the Middleton Rail trail was reinitiated.

Who is MiRTA and what is their role?

In 2018 the Middleton Rail Trail Committee was revived by another group of residents who chose the name “Middleton Rail Trail Alliance, aka “MiRTA.” The MiRTA is composed of several members from the initial group with additional newer members. MiRTA is now recognized as a 501c charitable organization (E.I.N. 84-1728503). The goal of MiRTA is to develop a strong grassroots effort to build the Rail Trail with little monetary help from the Town of Middleton. More information on MiRTA is available at MiRTA will be responsible for coordinating the project effort by:

  • planning for trail access, parking areas, and road crossings;
  • creating rules governing use of the trail, amenities and signage;
  • raising funds from private and public sources and securing publicly available funding as appropriate.
Once the trail is developed MiRTA will:
  • coordinate volunteer efforts for maintaining and improving the public resource;
  • develop and maintain an annual budget and work plan.

What is the current status of the Rail Trail project?

The construction of the Rail Trail will be done in phases, as described below: Phase 1:
Phase 1 extends from Central St, behind Howe Manning School and continue to Essex St. Construction was substantially completed in the early 4th quarter of 2020.
Phase 2:
Phase 2 will start from Highland Road, cross over Maple St. by Liberty St and continue to Central St. Phase 3:
Phase 3 will start from the Middleton/Danvers town line between Masi Meadows and Gregory Street, cross over Gregory St and the Ipswich River, and end at Highland Road. Date TBD.
Phase 4:
Phase 4 will start at West Side of Essex St and continue to Sharpners Pond Road in North Andover. Date TBD.

Who currently owns the rail bed?

Middleton Electric Light Department currently owns the leased rights to the stretch of the old rail bed from the Danvers/Middleton town north to Essex Street and has issued a license to the Town of Middleton to use the right of way as an unpaved bicycle/pedestrian walking path for recreational use by the public. National Grid owns the leased rights to the stretch of old rail bed from Essex Street north to the Middleton/North Andover town line.

Will the trail extend to other towns?

When finished, the trail will connect the Town of Middleton with a rail trail in Danvers that is now in the planning stages. Once complete, the Danvers rail trail will connect with their existing rail trail, which will connect Middleton residents with a much longer trail network.

Will the trail be paved?

Middleton Rail Trail surface will not be paved.

When will the project begin, and when will the trail be open?

Developing the rail trail is a multi-year project. The first phase is substantially complete. Currently, our efforts are focused on planning the whole project. We are currently working with the Town of Middleton, MELD, and all appropriate town departments.

How can I support the Rail Trail?

  • Make a donation
  • Purchase a mile marker (to be offered in the future)
  • Provide in-kind services
  • Attend a monthly MiRTA meeting to learn about current projects.

What is the cost to the town?

The goal of MiRTA is to plan, design, create and maintain the trail at no cost to the towns. The non-profit will do this by seeking grants and raising funds privately to support the full range of activities. The towns may choose to cover some maintenance tasks on the trail, and there will be some cost impact to the public works department where the trail encounters road crossings, but the goal is to build the Rail Trail using the least amount of town funds as possible.

Who is liable for accidents on the trail?

MELD and National Grid (the owners of the existing rail bed in Middleton) and the town of Middleton are not liable for accidents on the trail. According to the experience of other rail trails as reported by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, “adjacent landowners are not at risk as long as they abstain from ‘willful and wanton misconduct’ against trespassers such as recklessly or intentionally creating a hazard. Trail managers minimize liability exposure provided they design and manage the trail in a responsible manner and do not charge for trail access.”

What are the expected benefits?

  • Increased health and wellness resource: a trail gives residents of all ages and physical abilities the chance to exercise and enjoy the outdoors without worrying about noise and dangers of traffic.
  • Environmentally friendly transportation: a trail provides a viable, safe and green transportation route.
  • Enhanced open space protection: trails preserve and maintain natural settings.
  • Stronger civic pride and community identity: trails help to define “livable” towns and connect them to each other; help unite people with varying physical abilities; and aid in preservation of local history.

What are the security risks?

Extensive research indicates that crime on rail trails is rare. Researchers have thoroughly examined the experience of nearly 400 rail trails in urban, suburban and rural environments throughout the U.S. over more than 30 years. According to this research, there is no evidence that the development of rail trails leads to an increase in crime. In fact, it has been documented that criminal activity on rail trails is significantly lower than the overall rate of crime. In addition to the quantitative data, a number of the research reports present anecdotal information from law enforcement officers on the incidence of crime on the rail-trails. These reports indicate that because rail trails attract activity, they can act to deter crime in areas that were previously isolated. (See )

What hours will the trail be open?

The trail will be open from dawn to dusk. This is the policy with most rail trails.

How will the trail be maintained?

Once the trail is built, the focus of MiRTA will be on defining ongoing maintenance and funding, and coordinating volunteer efforts to keep it clean, beautiful and usable. For information about how you can help with maintenance, please contact: Middleton Rail Trail Alliance (MiRTA) PO Box 821 Middleton MA 01949

Will the trail be plowed in the winter?

An unplowed trail would be available for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

How is the proposed Rail Trail to be used?

The proposed trail is intended to be used for hiking, walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, and other non-motorized modes of transit.

Do you have to be a Middleton resident to use the trail?

No. The trail is open to the public, subject to the rules listed above and elsewhere on this website.

Can I ride my dirt bike/ATV/snowmobile on the trail?

No. In general, motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail. Emergency vehicles, Town maintenance vehicles, and assistive conveyances (e.g., motorized wheelchairs) are allowed on the trail. Other motorized vehicles are not allowed. If you see someone using an unauthorized motorized vehicle on the trail, please contact the appropriate police dispatch center (non-emergency number).

Are Motorized Vehicles Allowed on the Trail?

Use by motorized vehicles (cars, ATV’s, mopeds, snowmobiles, etc.) is expressly forbidden at any time of the year, with exceptions note below for the disabled.

Are Motorized Wheelchairs or Similar Devices Used by The Disabled Okay on the Trail?

In the case of devices used by the disabled, the safe and proper use of motorized mobility devices is allowed. These devices are allowed by Federal guidelines for “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government.” A safety flag attached to such a device is recommended for increased visibility. It should have a quiet electric motor to minimize disturbances to wildlife.

Are horses allowed on the trail?

Horses are not allowed on the Middleton Rail Trail. With no ill will towards horses or horseback riders, there are several reasons we do not allow horses on the trail, which include: 1) pedestrian/cyclist safety given the narrow width of the trail and trail shoulders, 2) damage to the stone dust trail surface from horse hooves, and 3) clean-up.

Is there a speed limit on the Trail?

15 mph – This is the most standard speed limit on trails across the country.

Can I post advertisements on the Trail?


What side of the trail are people supposed to walk on?

Unlike on the roads, both pedestrian and biker trail users should keep to the right-hand side of the trail.

Are pets allowed on the trail?

Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be leashed. Leashes prevent the dogs from disturbing wildlife in wetland areas, disturbing abutters who have chosen to not have fencing installed, and alarming other trail users who may be uncomfortable around dogs. We also ask that you clean up after your pet, so using the trail will be a pleasant experience for everyone.

What are the Rules for using the Trail?

  • Open dawn to dusk
  • Be courteous to other trail users
  • Stop at ALL stop signs
  • Bicyclists should wear safety helmets. State law requires children 16 and younger to wear a helmet while biking.
  • Keep to the right; pass on the left
  • Use an audible signal when passing
  • Look before passing
  • Bicyclists yield to pedestrians
  • Travel at a safe speed
  • Keep pets on a short leash, remove droppings
  • When stopping do not block the trail
  • Obey all traffic control signs and signals
  • No littering — carry in, carry out
  • Alcoholic beverages prohibited
  • Respect property adjacent to the trail
  • No motorized vehicles on the trail except electric wheelchairs
  • In case of emergency, dial 911.

Where will people park cars to get onto the trail?

Parking accommodations have not yet been identified. One of the key design projects over the next two years will be a study to determine the requirements and possibilities for parking and access to the trail.

What will prevent trail users from parking on my street?

Most trail users will use designated parking areas. In some cases, parking facilities are designed into the plans. In other cases, nearby municipal facilities already exist or agreements can be negotiated with commercial property owners. Residents often want “No Parking” signs to prevent non-residents from parking in their neighborhood. However, the signs apply to the residents and their guests as well as to others. Consequently, signs should be posted only when it becomes clear that they are needed. Alert your Town officials if parking becomes a persistent issue on your street and request that your Town officials identify additional parking areas to help alleviate the problem. Contact MiRTA for additional assistance with this issue.

How will we control access to the trail?

Some type of moveable barrier will be installed at entrances in order to prevent unauthorized motor vehicles from entering. These same barriers would allow pedestrian and bicycle access. The barriers are moveable to allow emergency and maintenance vehicles entrance. Trail use rules will be posted at every entrance.

Are there public restrooms along the Trail?

There are currently no public restrooms planned along the trail – plan accordingly.

What will be done to assure safe road crossings where the trail intersects a road?

Standard trail designs usually use bollards along with such things as striping and signs to warn trail users of an upcoming intersection. The road crossing itself is usually striped much like a standard pedestrian crossing. There will be signs on the road to warn drivers. For particularly dangerous and heavily used intersections, a button-activated crossing light may be considered.