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The town of Dover is moving ahead with a controversial proposal: a bike path that has divided the town over concern that it would alter Dover's rural character.
On Monday, the town meeting approved moving the project forward.
'A Place Where People Could Connect'
The center of Dover is a crossroads with a market, a pizza shop, a library and not much else besides a railroad track. Its decaying ties disappear into the encroaching trees, undisturbed by the passage of trains now for 10 years. The MBTA owns the track, and a group of people in town have big plans for it.
"Right from the beginning, we saw the conversion of this rail into a trail to be a form of connection for Dover," said Kevin Ban, beaming as he stood in the tracks talking about the 2.7-mile bike path he envisions here.
"We saw it as being a place that would connect disparate parts of the town, the southern part to the northern part. We also saw it as a place where people could connect to their health, and we saw it as a place where our community could connect to one another," he added.
The rail trail — a wide path made of crushed stone — comes all the way through Needham until you get to the Charles River. Just as you get to the river, there's a fence, and past the fence, you can see the track's rails. Beyond that area, there's a couple more fences before you reach the other side of the river, where Dover is located.
The original plan was to extend the trail across the bridge into Dover. But Ban learned from conversations with people in town that too many of them did not want people coming into Dover from Needham and beyond.
"We saw the conversion of this rail into a trail to be a form of connection for Dover ..."Kevin Ban
So if he wanted this project to pass, he needed the path to stop before the bridge to Needham. And it won't connect to Medfield on the other end, either.
But at Dover town meeting this week, Ban's concessions did not allay the concerns of all opponents.
"So we just want you to understand that the remainder of the corridor in Dover could be developed in the future, and easily connect to the other towns, and if it connects, that means there's higher utilization and that will result in higher taxes and more services in our center," warned Missy Gramer, who led the opposition to the trail.
More than 800 people turned out to discuss the proposal.
Opponents worry that the bike trail will attract too many people on road and mountain bikes.
"There'll be families like you and me," countered Sara Molyneaux. "I'm very proud of us in Dover tonight for going green, and I'd like to see us get out of our cars and onto bikes."
Many want to keep Dover a rural community.
"I'm here to speak against the rail trail, because I think it will irrevocably change the nature of Dover," said Ralph Slanker, who has lived in Dover for 26 years. "We live in a rural community. It's not suburban, and that distinction is important."
Opponents have worried about crime.
Ty Howe, a supporter of the bike trail, wondered if it would increase crime, so he contacted police forces in eight other towns that have rail trails.
"They reported that there were no problems and no increase in crime," Howe reported to the meeting.
Finally, the vote was called.
By a vote of 475 to 334, town meeting approved giving the Board of Selectmen the authority to lease the land from the MBTA for 99 years.
This segment aired on May 5, 2016.