BOSTON – For the first time in an environmental bond bill, $25 million was designated to facilitate a better partnership with municipalities looking to build trails for consideration using Department of Transportation funds, through a dedicated line item.
The purpose of this line item to offer more accessible, transparent, and streamlined resources for trail development; provide resources to municipally improved trails that are not necessarily candidates for funding from the Department of Transportation; and finally, create a permanent structure as to how the Commonwealth facilitates trail development.
As the founder of the Trails Caucus in the Massachusetts Legislature, State Rep. Chris Walsh of Framingham has spearheaded a bipartisan effort to expand and maintain the current trail system throughout the Commonwealth. Working in tandem with the Administration and advocacy organizations to unify the statewide system from ‘The High Road’ Project in the Berkshires to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, Rep. Walsh has identified the economic and environmental benefits in connecting communities through natural paths.
The Environmental Bond Bill also includes a revolving fund for Transfer Development Rights (TDR); an innovative approach and a land use tool allowing municipalities to create open space by leveraging increased density in areas that communities have deemed appropriate to have denser buildout.
“I have been working closely with the Administration, as well as advocates from around the state on the Transfer of Development Rights and Rail Trail issues for many years,” said Rep. Walsh, in a media release.
“The Environmental Bond Bill will help the Commonwealth retain the character of New England landscape in new and innovative ways such as expanding and maintaining the current trail system and preserving open space through the use of Transfer of Development Rights. It is important to recognize that this legislation represents decades’ worth of effort by advocates who have pushed these time-sensitive issues regarding trails, open space and the mitigation of climate change continuously,” said Rep. Walsh, a Democrat who represents most of Framingham.
The funding of this piece of legislation mirrors the emphasis that many advocacy organizations have placed on the importance of empowering municipalities to guarantee clean drinking water, to improve flood resilience, and prepare for climate change readiness.
The legislation also provides $300 million in authorizations funding for critical investments in coastal and inland infrastructure and support new climate change initiatives to aid municipalities in coping with future ‘100-year’ storms.
This bill has been sent to be reviewed and heard by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.