After almost a decade of talking, proposing and planning the Cape Cod Rail Trail is expanding thanks to all of the hard work done by the Mass Department of Transportation, Mass Department of Conservation & Recreation and the Town of Yarmouth. The Cape Cod Rail Trail expansion at this point is a $8.2 million dollar project, which includes the building of the two bridges over major roadways and adding 3.7 miles to the existing trail from South Dennis to South Yarmouth. Residents and visitors alike are thrilled with the idea of the expansion of this popular Cape Cod icon, which currently stretches 22 miles long through the towns of Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Brewster, Harwich and South Dennis. The new plans for the trail will include the towns of Yarmouth and Barnstable.
Expansion of the Cape Cod Rail Trail
The expansion is just the beginning to achieving the goal of the Cape Cod Commission and many towns around Cape Cod, which is that one day the Cape Cod Rail Trail will connect all Cape Cod towns so that people do not need cars to reach town centers. The idea would be to help people find alternative ways to access town centers around the Cape. The extension would also make the Cape Cod Rail Trail more accessible to residents and visitors alike. Currently, in order to access the Cape Cod Rail Trail many residents and visitors have to pack their bikes on their cars and drive to access points for the trail in order to use it. Extending the trail would eliminate the need, or at least limit the need for people to use their cars to get on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. There are three phases to the construction of the Cape Cod Rail trail expansion plan at this time.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail Extension Phases
The first phase is extending the trail from Peter Home Park on Old Townhouse Road in South Yarmouth to North Main Street in South Yarmouth. Work on this phase was started in October 2015, and it is expected that the work will be completed by 2017. The second phase would connect the trail on North Main Street located in South Yarmouth to the Bass River bridge in the town of Dennis. This phase would create a pedestrian and biking bridge for trail users, and it would also kick off a tidal restoration project that would benefit the ecosystem and improve navigation involving the bridge. This second phase is scheduled to begin in 2017.The third phase of the construction would extend the Cape Cod Rail Trail from Peter Homer Park on Old Townhouse Road in South Yarmouth to Mary Dunn Road in Barnstable. A bridge over Willow Street will be constructed, two crossing sections for trail users and an 80 spot parking lot by the rotary at Higgins Crowell Road to accommodate people who need to travel to access the trail. This segment of the construction is expected to begin in 2018.
History of the Cape Cod Rail Trail
Before the construction of the railroad onto Cape Cod, the Cape was a pretty isolated place. The only way to get to Cape Cod was by stagecoach or by boat.The Cape Cod Rail Trail is the site of what once was the most eastern extension of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which was constructed by the Old Colony Railroad. Built right after the Civil War, the railroad line was used to transport both goods and passengers. The railroad caused Cape Cod’s popularity as a summer destination place to boom, transporting visitors from New York, Connecticut and other areas of Massachusetts. The railroad was used from the late 1800’s until the 1960’s. In the 1960’s, passenger travel declined due to the new freeways and other methods of transportation that were much faster than the old railroad. However, the railroad still transported freight until the 1970’s when the line was purchased by the state. In 1976, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchased the trail, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation leased the line to be used as the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
The Original Cape Cod Rail Trail
The original Cape Cod Rail Trail begins at Route 134 in South Dennis and ends at LeCount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet. There are plenty of places along the trail to park if you want to pick it up in one of the other towns along the route. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is 22 miles of paved path off the main roads through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. On the trail, there are a few hills, large unpaved shoulders along the paved path for passing and well marked crossing areas for when the trail meets a road. There are also regular police bike patrols throughout the trail, so it is safe for all to enjoy.
All Along the Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail passes many interesting points throughout this beautiful area of the Cape. The trail passes many lakes and ponds that you can swim in, restaurants, shops and picnic areas. In the town of Harwich, the Local Flavor at the Pleasant Lake General Store is a bagel and sandwich shop located right off the trail and right across the street from a picnic area overlooking the lake. At the Local Flavor you can pick up a sandwich and drink in the middle of your ride, sit at the picnic area across the street where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lake. There are even some bike shops along the path if you need to rent a bike or your bike needs a tune-up, such as the Little Capistrano Bike Shop in Eastham which can help with all of your biking needs. There are also restrooms available along the trail at Nickerson State Park, the National Seashore and the Salt Pond Visitors Center.
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The Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a beautiful way to take in Cape Cod’s beautiful natural landscape. The expansion of the trail means more enjoyment for biking, walking, horseback riding and rollerblading enthusiasts. The expansion of the Cape Cod Rail Trail will connect all the communities on Cape Cod, which has many residents and visitors excited.