By Judy Wakefield
---- — Andover’s newest green space officially opens for hiking, biking and walking in the fresh air on Saturday, April 27.
It’s the first section of the Greenway that runs through two town-owned conservation parcels — the Shawsheen River and The Vale reservations.
Dubbed Vale Trail and located less than a mile from the town center, it provides access to nearly 2 miles of uninterrupted open space, said volunteer John Hess of Andover, a member of AVIS (Andover Village Improvement Society), which oversees 30 miles of conversation trails, boardwalks and bridges spread across 1,100 acres in town.
Those involved with seeing the trail come to fruition are thrilled to open another pathway for townspeople and visitors to enjoy.
“The area is not well known to hikers and walkers ... we want it to be known,” Hess said.
Dave Doub of Andover, AVIS trustee and coordinator of next weekend’s dedication event, said his group just wants people to enjoy it.
“It’s protected woodlands so it’s safe — no cars. It’s quiet and just a great way to see nature,” Doub said.
Running parallel to the Shawsheen River, the 2-mile trail also provides access to the waterway at the Ballardvale MBTA train stop.
“That opens up a number of recreational possibilities, including fishing and canoeing in addition to hiking and biking,” Hess said. “Plus, with an outlet at the train station, the trail offers commuters an alternate means of access to the station. I already know of one guy who rides his bike on the trail and then folds it up and gets on the train to go to work.”
The Vale Trail represents the first completed segment of the Shawsheen River Greenway in Andover. AVIS members say the project is very important not only because it offers recreational value to Andover for multiple use activity, there is also significant biological diversity along the length of the trail.
“This is a true model for others. Some planners are very interested in Andover’s Greenway,” Hess said, adding the Vale Trail will be seen as an example for other communities.
Initiated in 2002, the project required the clearing of overgrown brush and rocks. AVIS members, volunteers, local Scouts and members of the Conservation Commission and other organizations in town all rolled up their sleeves to get the work done.
“The trail has seen 300 volunteers, 3,000 hours of labor and $30,000 of materials to complete this first section,” Hess said. “Sustaining this effort through the help of other town organizations will enable the Greenway to extend further in the future. AVIS has demonstrated how this can be accomplished.”
WHEN: Saturday, April 27, 2 p.m.; rain date Sunday, April 28
WHERE: MBTA Ballardvale parking lot, 196 Andover St.
WHAT TO KNOW: Hikers can park at the MBTA Ballardvale parking lot at 196 Andover St. and be ready to leave at 1 p.m. for a short hike to explore the southern end of the Greenway. A longer hike happens at 12:30 p.m. Gather at the intersection of Central Street and Abbot Bridge Drive to hike approximately 1.4 miles through the Shawsheen River and Vale reservations. Both hikes return to the north end of the commuter parking lot where the dedication ceremony begins at 2 p.m.