Published in the March 22, 2017 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — School officials will not be endorsing the rail trail before Town Meeting, School Committee Chairman Tim Doyle and Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay said in separate interviews with the Villager last week. T
he Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail group has been frequently attending board meetings in town and has been requesting committees to endorse the rail trail. The group is requesting boards to sign off on the project in preparation for an April Town Meeting warrant article that will ask voters to accept a 99-year lease from the MBTA that would allow the project to move forward.
In a phone interview with the Villager, Doyle said the school board declined the group’s request to give a presentation about the project at a public meeting. “I told (Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail member) Dick Simmons he could not present it to the board because, historically, the School Committee does not take positions on matters that don’t impact the school department,” said Doyle.
Doyle said Simmons was given permission to give a presentation to school officials about the rail trail. In addition to Doyle those present during this presentation were Tremblay and Simmons, High School Principal Bob Cleary, Middle School Principal Stephen Ralston and High School Athletic Director Mike Bierwirth.
“We came out and said it’s not the school district or School Committee’s place to make endorsements,” Tremblay said in a phone interview with the Villager. Tremblay recalled that Simmons asked school officials during this meeting if the rail trail would have “an educational benefit” for the school system if it passes. “As a district, we see the benefits for our students,” said Tremblay. “But we said the final decision is up to the voters of Lynnfield.”
Doyle concurred with Tremblay’s opinion. He said school officials relayed to Simmons during the meeting that the high school track and cross country teams would be able to use the rail trail if it gets built. He also said Ralston noted middle school students could use the rail trail to “make observations” about the wetlands and marsh located behind LMS.
Simmons requested Tremblay to give a statement about the project’s benefits and the superintendent agreed. Afterwards, the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail created a meme for its Facebook page featuring the statement. Several rail trail opponents criticized the post after believing Tremblay endorsed the project.
Tremblay told the Villager she agreed to give “a statement to answer the question.”
“But it’s not an endorsement,” explained Tremblay. “It’s not within my purview to say if this goes through or not.”
In a phone interview with the Villager, Simmons also said the meme is “not an endorsement” even though many residents believed Tremblay endorsed the project after reading it. “Jane did not give an endorsement,” said Simmons. “She just stated from her perspective as an educator what the benefits of the rail trail would be.”
The Villager also reached out to Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail member Vince Inglese, but Simmons said Inglese declined to comment on the matter.
The proposed rail trail project involves building a 4.4-mile recreational trail along an abandoned rail bed beginning across the street from the Galvin Middle School on Main Street in Wakefield and traversing through Lynnfield to the Peabody line. Approximately 1.9 miles of the trail is located within Wakefield, with the remaining 2.5 miles located in Lynnfield. The proposed trail would run through Reedy Meadow for just over half a mile.