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Bruce N. Freeman was a Massachusetts state representative from 1969 to 1986. Beginning in 1985, he championed the creation of a bike path that would run along the former Penn Central railroad line from Industrial Avenue in Lowell to South Sudbury. Inspiration for the trail (then referred to as the Lowell-Sudbury Rail Trail) came partly from seeing the Cape Cod Rail Trail, as well as a bike trail in San Jose, California, on which Freeman had ridden with his son and grandson. After Freeman’s death in 1986, his successor Carol C. Cleven introduced a bill that would make the bike path a reality.
A developing rail-trail, the route winds for almost 16 miles through Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Action, and Concord. The rail-trail is paved and is typically about 10 feet wide. In January 2023, construction began on the Sudbury section, which will run 4.4 miles from the Sudbury/Concord line to the MassCentral Rail Trail. Additional plans for the rail-trail include continuing to extend it south through Sudbury and Framingham.
The trail's northern endpoint is located at the Lowell/Chelmsford line by River Meadow Brook. A green painted path goes from the nearest building into the trail parking lot, providing great access for those who work in the buildings near the trailhead.
Meandering southwest from the Chelmsford trailhead, the route includes an extensive culvert tunnel under US 3/Northwest Expressway. On the other side of the tunnel, you’re greeted with flowers as the rail-trail runs along the back side of several business areas. In 0.8 mile from the trailhead, the trail runs diagonally under the large I-495/Blue Star Memorial Highway overpass as you enter the Chelmsford area. Baseball fields are just off the trail to the left as you cross Chelmsford Street in another 0.5 mile. The path begins again on the other side. Here, you’ll make your way into a little downtown area, where the trail follows Chelmsford Street very briefly.
In 0.3 miles, be careful as you cross the central intersection of MA 4/North Road and MA 110/Littleton Road, as this is located in the middle of town. Take the trail almost straight through the intersection, following signs for the safe crosswalks that will lead you to the other side. A small lantern man sculpture off to the right lets you know that you’re back on the trail. A few more pieces of art are just ahead, where an old train depot used to be.
As you head out of town, you’ll pass through a rural section—much of it covered by tree canopies—following Beaver Brook as it makes its way through neighborhoods. This section of trail is leisurely and wide, with fencing along both sides in some portions.
In 2.7 miles, to the right of the trail in Chelmsford, is Heart Pond. Note that the beach—which contains a playground and swimming area—is open to the public. The trail skips over the corner of Heart Pond and travels along a small dockside community. It then continues south through more wooded areas with portions of fencing along the trail, adding to the structural beauty of the corridor. The trail also winds through NARA Park (25 Ledge Rock Way, Action), which offers lakeside beaches, a playground, a picnicking area, an amphitheater, and a variety of sports fields and courts.
Crossing MA-2 via a pedestrian bridge, the trail generally follows the Nashoba River through the town of Action before winding south into Concord. Passing Warners Pond and crossing the Assabet River, the route continues south. There is a brief Pedestrian Zone in West Concord Center where you must dismount and walk your bikes.
In 2023, the county extended the trail south past White Pond to Frost Farm. The southern end is currently an out-and-back with access available via the trail from Powder Mill Road, between Stone Root Lane and Mitchell Road.
There is parking at various points along the trail (though not at the southern trailhead). View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
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