It was in 2005, that I noticed that a few hundred yards of former railroad corridor in central Mass was sold for a less-than-stellar purpose. It was sold to an adjoining land-owner who intending to block the future construction of a trail that would connect an elementary school in his town to the village center—where many of the children lived. I said, “Time’s up.”
Since I’m a realtor and have direct access to a very sophisticated database of real estate listings and land ownership, I use it to find opportunities to piece together and reassemble former railroad corridor in the state.
And since I’m a former lobbyist and know how things work in the usually opaque world of transportation delivery in Massachusetts, I said that I wouldn’t be letting such stupid things take place any longer—without making some ‘noise’ about it.
I set up Central Highlands Conservancy LLC to swoop-in and buy former RR corridor that would connect to a larger and more significant project that if lost, would complicate the development of a future, longer trail. I set up CHC to primarily reassemble some of the ‘in-play’ segment of the old Mass Central Railroad—soon to be Mass Central Rail Trail.. Northampton to Boston—104 miles long. www.masscentralrailtrail.org
In 2005, I bought in one fell swoop—3.2 miles of this corridor in Hardwick, and New Braintree. Also included in the deal were 3 bridges. [1 @ 130’, 1@ 90’ and 1 @ 100’ long.] All would have been scrapped out had we not done this.
These deals aren’t as complicated as you might think.
1. A local bank loans me the money to buy the corridor and agrees to not bill me until the closing w the local land trust.
2. We give the local land trust 24 months to fund-raise and buy me out. Buy me out for my costs and expenses and no mark-up.
3. when the secondary closing takes place, the bank then tacks on the interest rate charges to the land trust.
4. During the time when I own it, I pay the taxes, meet my new neighbors, work with them on what kind of uses they’d like to see on the trail, and do high profile press releases that embarrass the state DOT. How dare they allow our cultural heritage to be erased because of some obsolete laws that make it easy for people to buy old RR corridor for nefarious purposes.
In the ensuing years, about 12 + miles of the MCRT corridor have been saved either directly or indirectly because of CHC. The entire corridor is likely to be reassembled within 8 years making the longest rail trail in New England.