On the right path
BY KRISTEN LOMBARDI
Craig Della Penna believes the time has come. The New England representative of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an advocacy group in Washington, DC, has watched the Massachusetts gubernatorial campaigns unfold — and, for the most part, they’ve been devoid of big vision. So he’s got just the answer for the current crop of candidates: the Mass Central Corridor, the 104 miles of abandoned railroad track now being converted into a recreational path. Says Della Penna, "The Mass Central Corridor is by far the single-most-important project that should be on the radar of the future governor."
To convince the candidates, he and dozens of advocates from such recreational organizations as Mass Bike, Wachusetts Greenways, and the Wayside Rail-Trail Committee will host the Golden Spike II celebration, complete with speeches, music, and food, on Friday, June 21. The advocates plan to draw attention to the nearly one dozen projects already under way along the corridor, which stretches from Boston to Northampton, in the hope that a gubernatorial wanna-be will "adopt" the project — i.e., push for its funding, talk it up, and be an all-around visible leader on the issue.
If Della Penna had two minutes to pitch the idea to the eight candidates in the race, he’d stress the most obvious perk. Rail trails across the country have reaped massive economic benefits for local communities. On Cape Cod, for instance, the rail trail that extends along the peninsula has generated 30 percent of the area’s retail and dining business for the past 25 years. People walk, ride, and skate on the path, with money to spend and no cars to divert them.
Revenue aside, Della Penna points to yet another reason why candidates should embrace the corridor: it connects people. He concludes, "This is the front porch of urban America. It’s like baseball and apple pie, or meat and potatoes."
Perhaps one of the candidates will agree.
The Golden Spike II kicks off at 11 a.m., on Friday, June 21, at Bentley College, in Waltham. Call (508) 755-3300 or visit www.masscentralrailtrail.org.
Issue Date: June 20 - 27, 2002
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