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Crowds embrace Rail Trail despite cold

Despite incredibly cold temperatures, the trail was crowded with walkers and bicycle riders.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Who would be insane enough to walk the Needham Rail Trail on the coldest day of the year? Apparently, a lot of people - when I went on Sunday afternoon the trail was crowded with joggers, dog walkers, fat-tire bikers and cross-country skiers.

Starting out from the parking lot at Redwing Bay, I opted to “finish” the trail before I’d really started it, by heading down to the finish line at the Charles River. After running into the small section of fence painted with a Nelson Mandela quote, I wondered why they painted such a small section, when the bright colors really enhanced the area. The answer is that the mural was covering some offensive graffiti. Hopefully they keep going, because it really looks great. And hopefully whoever spray painted the graffiti the first time doesn’t come back and deface it.   

This mural was painted on a portion of the accompanying fence to cover up offensive graffiti.

The “end” of the trail was disappointing, but understandable. While the large bridge across the water would offer a great view of the Charles River, it would certainly be dangerous to have people walk, bike or jog across. You would need a ton of fencing that would need to be thoroughly inspected often, but it would also turn the trail into a highly desirable destination and provide much more of a reason for people that don’t live in the area to ride the trail.

The snow was packed enough to walk across in sneakers, but made the trail pretty.

I say ride, because even with the ground covered in snow, that’s what there seemed to be the most of on the trail: bikers. I don’t know if they are responsible for it, but the cross-country skier tracks tended to be on the sides, while the snow in the middle of the trail was matted down, so walking on the presumably crunched snow the bicycle tires made was extremely easy. While I noticed a few of the joggers had spikes tied to their shoes, most didn’t, and every time one ran by me I couldn’t help but think of the famous viral video of the woman explaining to a newscaster how perfect the matted snow is to jog on, only to immediately fall when she starts running. It’s a great video, from a much simpler time on the internet.

Had a jogger slipped on the snow, I absolutely would have taken their picture and posted it here.

The first thing I thought about while I walked the trail was real estate prices, oddly enough. Seeing the backs of expensive homes that can now advertise being a short walk to the Rail Trail just made me think of how they were likely once sold with the caveat that while Needham’s a great town and they’re in a great area, a loud train was going to be running through your backyard and waking you up at 4 a.m.. As is the case with the current GameStop stock drama, in real estate, knowing when to stay and when to sell is everything.

Cross country skiers took advantage of the trail’s snow.

The other “end” of the rail trail is even more anticlimactic: it’s just a wooden fence. Obviously, this may continue into multiple towns at some point, but right now, it’s just a wooden fence. It’s not surprising the snow becomes less matted down the closer to the finish you get, since people know there’s nothing especially interesting coming just around the bend.

One thing about the cold is that it did what COVID-19 couldn’t: put face coverings on every person. Everyone had a scarf or a mask on, mainly because it was so cold that you wanted your own breath thrown back into your face. That was good, because there are some narrow points on the trail that could have led to mask dispute drama.

The Needham Rail Trail is going to be even more impressive in the future, when the Bay Colony Rail Trail connects to Dover, Medfield and Needham. When it does, those house sellers who couldn't put up with the 4 a.m. trains any longer are really going to be kicking themselves.

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