There are two railroad lines on the Cape. In railroad terminology, one is the Cape Main. The Cape Main extends from Middleborough to Hyannis/Yarmouth. Trains operating on this line include the Mass Coastal Excursions, the Energy Train, and, of most use to the general public in summer, the CapeFLYER.
The other line is the Falmouth Secondary. It extends from the railroad bridge to North Falmouth. Like the Cape Main, the line belongs to the commonwealth and is under supervision of MassDOT. An extension on toward Joint Base Cape Cod is clouded in ownership and management, as it was added in the war years. The rails on the active portion of the base were taken up long ago. A branch to the transfer station remains. The Secondary and the extension serve a private contractor.
In the glory years of railroading, the Falmouth Secondary extended to Woods Hole carrying freight, US mail, Railway Express and passengers. In the dying years the rails were pulled back to Falmouth and then to Route 151. The people of Falmouth argued for and won a new use for their corridor. They have the Shining Sea Bikeway to show for their effort.
What is the best use of the remaining 6.8 miles of the Secondary for Bourne? What is the best use of the 2.8-mile extension toward the Crane Wildlife Area for Falmouth? The other rail trails on the Cape provide examples, the most popular being general recreational use.
In addition to recreation, the Bourne corridor has a particular benefit to the villages of Gray Gables, Monument Beach, Pocasset and Cataumet. The corridor goes through the center of these villages. Commercial, residential and recreational properties are directly adjacent; more than a trail, it’s almost a neighborhood path to the store, beach, ball field, tennis court, boat launch, et cetera. This corridor has great potential for use by residents of all ages.
The Falmouth Secondary is currently the missing link between the canal path and the Shining Sea. Adding it to the system of Cape Cod rail trails adds to the growing interest in trails. If Bourne fails to capitalize on the opportunity, our villages will be left out of this Capewide network.
In August, local and regional leaders—including our state representatives and senator, the head of the regional transit authority, and selectboard chairs in Bourne, Sandwich and Falmouth—penned a letter to MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack requesting her agency’s engagement in creating the trail. I eagerly await the agency’s attention to this important matter.
MassDOT’s first action should be to take down the “No Trespassing” sign on the Falmouth Secondary line. This would informally open the trail to the public and put the corridor to its best use.
John G. Carroll, Barlows Landing Road, Pocasset