Frequently Asked Questions about the Charm Bracelet
Don Burn, Father of the Charm Bracelet
How did the charm bracelet trail start?
In the 1990’s I was on the Town of Westborough Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC) and was advocating building trails in town. My vision was a network of paths to connect all the open space and recreation areas in town with the neighborhoods of town.
In late 1999 I took the time to create a map of the existing and possible trails in town. Showing the map to the OSPC got the committee excited. Several members of the OSPC were on the board of the Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) and asked me to do the same presentation to the trust. At the presentation to the trust Harry Newell compared the effort to the Emerald Necklace in Boston and suggested the name Westborough Charm Bracelet Trail, the “charms” the open space and recreation areas in town.
Both the OSPC and WCLT voted to sponsor the trail early in 2000. The American Hiking Society adopted a goal of getting towns to build trails similar to the Charm Bracelet a few years after the trail in Westborough started.
How long is the whole trail?
The original trail proposal was for a loop around town; in its present plan this loop will be approximately 28.5 miles. The length varies as we acquire easements for the trail. At the present time we need three easements to complete an initial route, but close to twenty easements to complete the optimal routing of the trail. At present about 21 miles of trail including road walking and sidewalks are open to the public.
As part of building the trail, we recognized the need for side trails so the effort has grown to a network of trails. The ultimate goal is a seventy to eighty mile network with at present around 45 miles of trail in town.
Why did you want to establish the trail?
I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s in a town outside of Chicago with very similar characteristics to Westborough in the 1980’s and 1990’s. One striking difference was that people could walk to most of the recreation facilities in town via trails and sidewalks. When I moved to Westborough and asked where to walk, people suggested Princeton, MA, Lincoln MA, and the Blue Hills, but nowhere in town.
The Charm Bracelet was established to allow people to enjoy the beautiful open space in town. Also, by routing the trail by unprotected open space, the trail educated the community about the land. The Veterans Freedom Park is an example of this: the trail follows the northern edge of the property and caused people in town to realize the large tracts of land that are open between West Main Street and Mill Pond.
How many typically utilize the trail and what kind of activities can they do on it?
We don’t measure the exact number of person trips but it is many thousands of trips a year. Typical activities include:
- Walking – short walks in the various open space areas--this includes dog walking in many areas.
- Hiking – there are 10 mile and 7 mile end-to-end hikes available, People have used the trail to get into condition for hiking the Appalachian Trail. One of these routes was published in Backpacker Magazine.
- Geocaching and Letterboxing – These treasure hunting activities using the World Wide Web are both actively practiced on the trail.
- Mountain Biking – Several areas of the trail permit mountain biking; in particular this is popular in Westborough Wildlife Management Area.
- Cross Country Running – The four cross country teams of the high school use the trail to train off road.
- Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing – There are a number of popular routes for winter use of the trail. This includes a winter only trail to Cedar Swamp Pond.
The above are the common trail specific activities, people use the trails to access open space areas to study nature, take photographs, fish and a variety of other activities.
What are the benefits of having this trail in the town?
The trail can be thought of as a linear park encircling the town. Besides the uses listed in the last question the trail benefits the community because:
- There are few sidewalks in town. The trails make it easy to take walks from local neighborhoods without walking on the street.
- The path provides easy access to places to get regular exercise.
- Allows residents to see the beauty of nature close to home.
- Helps people realize the value of natural places locally and that you do not have to travel to a national park to experience nature.
- Provides the ability to get away and relax close to many neighborhoods.
Are there any specific historical contexts to parts of the trails?
The trail passes through a number of historic areas as it traverses the town. Some examples of this include:
- Pine Grove and St. Luke’s Cemeteries – The trail passes through and by these historic burial plots.
- Former site of the Town of Westborough Tree Farm – The trail west of Bowman Street passes through the tree farm the town had years ago.
- Gilmore Pond – The trail follows the shore line of the historic pond. The pond was created for fire protection of southwest Westborough in the 1930’s. It was the first home of Westborough hockey.
- Old roads in the Libbey Conservation Area – The trail follows old roads in the Libbey Conservation Area, and passes near an old farmer’s spring.
- Hoccomocco Pond – The trail skirts the south shore of the pond noted for its Indian legend.
- Lyman School – The trail will hopefully pass through the Lyman School property; it at present passes through some of the farm fields and woods of the former school.
- Westborough State Hospital – The trail crosses the former hospital lands.
- Boston and Worcester Trolley right of way – The trail follows the old route of the trolley through town.
- Former Newton Hill Road – The trail follows the old Newton Hill Road, this is one of the first roads in town by old maps, and is now only accessible as a trail.
- Cedar Swamp – The trail passes through Cedar Swamp, an archeological district because of the earliest human habitation in the area. Cedar Swamp is also the state’s first Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
Any other background or history of the trail itself?
A number of miscellaneous points about the trail:
- In 2000 the White House recognized the Charm Bracelet as a Millennium Trail. The Charm Bracelet Trail aided efforts in Northborough and Southborough to build trail systems in those towns.
- Almost all the funds to build the trail have been raised by the Westborough Community Land Trust.
- The first Charm Bracelet Celebratory walk had roughly 50 people walking from Minuteman Park to what would become the WCLT Hidden Meadow Property. The following year there were two days of walks involving over 100 people.
- At present the trail links to trails in Northborough, we are investigating connections to the other neighboring towns, and long term links to major trails such as the Bay Circuit Trail.