PENTA Hosts Westborough Multi-use Trail System Forum

WESTBOROUGH _ On Thursday, April 20, it was standing room only at The PENTA Building, located at 208 Turnpike Road, as enthusiastic members of the community gathered in the integrated marketing firm’s Marketing Innovation and Customer Insights Center™. The topic of discussion was the development of a new multi-use trail system named the Boston-Worcester Air Line Trail (BWALT).

The BWALT system promises to revitalize Westborough’s historic trolley line into a vibrant walking and cycling route, potentially connecting local communities through a network of accessible trails from Worcester to Framingham. The BWALT is slated to begin construction this year, with the first phase to stretch from Lyman Street to East Main Street in Westborough. The trail’s surface will consist of recycled asphalt and a layer of stone dust, offering accessibility for walkers, cyclers, and any non-motorized vehicles to travel along its course.

Westborough Selectman Bruce Tretter welcomed over 100 guests to the recent BWALT Walk & Talk meeting, with special gratitude to assisting partners Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and trail experts from throughout the region and beyond who traveled to attend the event.

Tretter introduced Westborough Town Planner Jim Robbins who began by thanking Deborah Penta, Founder and CEO of PENTA Communications, Inc., for hosting the event at PENTA’s historic corporate headquarters, which is located along the BWALT route.

“The restoration of [The PENTA Building] is an example of what can be done when you have a property owner who really loves history, and we have Deborah Penta to thank for this,” Robbins said. “[Penta] donated space for not just this event but … for other events, so we’re very fortunate to have people like [her] in our business community.”

Robbins described the impact of trails on quality-of-life and economic development.

“The National Homebuilders Association did a study recently and found that new homebuyers, particularly young homebuyers, wish to locate in a community that provides recreational and fitness opportunities for quality-of-life and public health,” Robbins said. “And Westborough, over the years, had developed a local trail called the [Westborough] Charm Bracelet [Trail System], and that’s a hiking trail that spreads throughout the community. This [BWALT] trail that we’re talking about this morning, the old trolley line, is an extension of that, and a much greater extension, because it’s intended to be a regional trail that will encourage other towns to participate.”

The BWALT network boasts numerous wellness and economic benefits for residents of the Town of Westborough, which was named one of the best places to live in the country by Money Magazine in 2016.

Availability of an expanded multi-use trail for walking and cycling would offer local employees more opportunities for convenient physical activity. Research from the National Center for Biotechnology suggests regular interruptions to sitting time, like taking an afternoon walk, can be linked to metabolic health benefits.

“Our organization applauds the tireless efforts of Westborough Town Planner Jim Robbins for his vision and dedication to bringing this trail to fruition, and we tip our hats to the Central Massachusetts Planning Commission, Westborough Selectman Bruce Tretter, and Westborough Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC) member Don Burn for their efforts in working to make this happen,” said Deborah Penta, CEO of PENTA Communications, Inc.

“We couldn’t be happier to have PENTA Communications, Inc. located at a gateway to this multi-purpose trail, offering our employees the benefit of access to safe and rural walking and cycling before or after their day begins, or to enjoy exercise benefits during their lunch time. This promotes health, wellness, and allows our team an opportunity to reduce stress and get outside to enjoy the outdoors,” said Penta. “All employers along the trail will have this benefit.  It is a positive employee perk, and offers a boost to commercial real estate values.”

Corporate economic development may also see a positive impact within the Town of Westborough, as evidenced in neighboring communities.

“The Marlborough Economic Development Committee recently did a study, within the last two years, on the location of new business to their town,” Robbins explained. “What they found was the number two reason that new businesses and corporate headquarters choose to locate is access to recreational opportunities.”

Further, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming unused rail systems into effervescent public places, cites expanded travel choices, trail-based tourism, decreased oil dependency, and increased returns for the federal budget as added-value benefits of trail networks for the environment and the American people.

Town of Westborough Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC) member Don Burn, who is described by Tretter as the heart and soul of the Westborough Charm Bracelet Trail System, shared his thoughts on the holistic value of recreational trails and the conversion of abandoned trolley routes into powerful assets for communities.

Burn described the BWALT development as a wonderful economic motivator and a safe off-the-road route that would connect multiple shopping centers and housing components in Westborough and its neighboring towns. Following Burn’s speech, the group was invited to participate in a three-mile walk to discuss challenges and solutions for the project.