If You Build It, They Will Come

Photos by Carolynn Henderson

Phipps Tunnel

Yes, Holliston built a “Field of Dreams.”  The Town built a recreational rail trail that spans the length of the town from Milford to Sherborn.  All 6.7 miles are traveled by walkers, strollers and bikers.  The trail has become central to the “get out and exercise” routine of many people.  There’s little doubt the trail has exceeded our expectations.

Over the last six months, two electronic counters have kept track of how many people use the trail.  Counters were installed near Blair Square and Village Plaza. Analysis of the data collected breaks out which days are the busiest and what the averages are for various months.  Here’s some of the general data from the last six months:

  • 94,121 people passed the Blair Square counter (some are round trip hikers) * (charts for Blair Square are at the end of the article)
  • 15,000 is the monthly average *
  • 40,154 people passed the Village Plaza counter (again, some round tippers)
  •  8,200 is the monthly average
The Upper Charles River Bike Trail passes through a Heron rookery.

As you’d expect, weekends are the busiest and, surprisingly, Tuesday is the busiest day of the weekdays.  The bulk of use falls between 10 AM and 4 PM daily.  These figures don’t even take into account trail use on the south end of the trail toward Milford and the stretch toward Sherborn. Users have their favorite time slot and location for being on the trail whether it’s the 8-arch bridge, the Phipps Tunnel, the Blue Heron rookery or just a shady section of trail to enjoy.

The 8-Arch Bridge.

The Rail Trail Committee and the Friends of the Holliston Rail Trail work cooperatively to maintain and enhance the usefulness of this town-wide treasure. The trail has been met with solid support and continual use.  As the movie theme suggests; “We built it and they did come.”

Blair Square summary.
Blair Square detail.

Ken Henderson


  1. Peter Eagan on July 8, 2020 at 6:09 am

    As a runner, walker and biker over thirty plus years of trail use of various stretches I have observed the progression from rundown and neglected to one of the Crown Jewels of the town. A run from South Street to Blair Square was nigh impossible with permanently flooded stretches, trestles in dangerous disrepair, and treacherous uneven surfaces. A bike ride over the eight arch bridge was to take one’s life in one’s hands.
    Kudos to you, Ken, as well as the leadership of the trail committee and every volunteer who has brought this about and to the town for supporting it. Well done!

  2. Shaw Lively on July 8, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Great stats. Thanks to the many volunteers who maintain the trail and pick up the dog waste.

  3. Henry Dellicker on July 8, 2020 at 10:35 am

    It is more popular than the train was. 😄

  4. Lee DeSorgher on July 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

    It’s a wonderful trail and Holliston is very lucky to have the volunteer support that it receives – I noticed recently that the animal waste baskets near Blair Square were overflowing and all over the ground – I didn’t know who to call

  5. Robert Weidknecht on July 8, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    Good point Henry. In 1954 there were 200 daily riders on the train. By 1959 that number dropped to 30 per day. The last passenger train to Milford was Friday, March 27, 1959, after 111 years of service.

    • Henry Dellicker on July 11, 2020 at 10:20 am

      I was one of those 30. I commuted to Boston through Framingham. I still miss it. The trail is a great preservation of those days.

  6. Bill Mayer on July 8, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    A tremendous asset for the Town.

  7. Jeff Howard on July 8, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    Living near the Holliston/Milford line on the trail, I can attest to how much the adjoining trails are shared by residents of both towns! (And Bob, thanks for the trains facts. 70-80 years ago, my Mom would ride that train from Boston to visit her grandmother on Pleasant St.)

  8. Max Ponit on July 8, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    It would be great if it was fully paved too…crushed gravel is nice but it’s rough for strollers and will wash out in time.

  9. Karen Bachrach on July 8, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    We are so lucky to have this beautiful resource–it has kept me sane over the past few months. Thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers!

  10. Maureen O'Reilly on July 8, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    Crushed gravel is better for drainage and environmentally better.

  11. Linda Arthur on July 8, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    It is one of the best resources in a town with lots of competition for great resources. The gravel surface is comfortable on feet and knees. The benches are well-sited; the scenery changes daily; the people you pass are friendly. Thank you to all who spend so much time keeping it wonderful!

  12. Laraine Worby on July 9, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    A true Holliston treasure. Where is the heron rookery?

  13. Carolynn Henderson on July 10, 2020 at 6:46 am

    Laraine – we park on Mayflower Landing and walk the trail towards Sherborn -the heron rookery is down a little way on the right side !

  14. Richard Goguen on July 11, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    I agree a great asset but I also agree a paved trail would be safer for senior citizen biking.

  15. Herb Brockert on July 11, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    After 20 + years on the rail trail committee and being a part of the journey to where the trail is today, although I know it is well used when I saw the numbers that show how many people actually use the trail, I was thrilled. The journey from no land, no money and only a dream has shown me what determination, dedicated people and time can do. Watching the army of volunteers who showed up to help with challenges like piping in the mud at the Phipps tunnel , putting railings on the bridges at Arch St. and Exchange St and many other necessary projects makes me feel gratitude for the people of this town. It has been a privilege to work with the fine members of the committee and the volunteers throughout the years.

  16. Joe Jankovsky on July 15, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Awesome data! I must have passed the counters hundreds of times but did not notice them.

    A question for Herb and others: is there anyone in Sherborn and Ashland working towards developing their sections? I recently rode to the town line and the soggy mud reminded me of what the Phipps section used to look like. It would be great to bike to Ashland and Framingham while avoiding traffic.

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