Russell Mill, Chelmsford
This area is one of 10 parcels of Open Space in Chelmsford, Ma. It is the largest of the 10 yet is still quite small by comparison to many of the areas we ride coming in at 130 acres total. Total because approximately 12 acres is either under water in the form of a pond which can be used for fishing/canoeing, or taken up by the town's soccer fields. Keep in mind as you read this that although small, through the efforts of Merrimack Valley NEMBA, it rides bigger than expected.
A few yars ago the town's Open Space Stewardship, of which Merrimack Valley is a partner, asked us if we would be interested in designing and building mountain bike trails on the property. This coming at a time when the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was in the beginning stages of construction the town was very interested in increasing it's diversity of biking and pedestrian trails. We naturally accepted the challenge and proceeded to outline what this would mean for the property. Approximately 4-5 miles of technical trail (singletrack) would be added to the existing trail system originally consisting of a couple miles of old carriage road and doubletrack.
This proposal was enthusiastically accepted by the Stewardship and the Conservation Commission, we were on our way. As an added note, part of our responsibilities in addition to the design and build of the trail system, was and still is, to work closely with the Stewardship in an effort to clean up the property, as there was a fair amount of illegal dumping in the back parking lot, assist in efforts to eliminate the illegal uses of the property, gps the property and be on a committee to develop a GIS based map of this and other properties and finally develop and install signage for user convenience and public safety. We had a lot to do!
After around around 18 months and we were about three quarters of the way to completion, although we all know these things are never complete. There is now nearly 5 miles of new singletrack, 6 new boardwalks, the site is considerably cleaner, illegal activity is almost non-existent and about half of the new signage is up. There are still several wet tread issues and small re-routes of old trail sections to deal with and we were hoping to be 95% complete by the end of that season.
For those of you who have not yet experienced Russell Mill, you will find the new trails familiar if you've ridden Lowell/Dracut State Forest. This is a State Forest that MV has been working on for a number of years with co-operation with the DCR. We have taken our philosophy there and applied it to Russell Mill. Fun singletrack which appeals to all levels of riders is what we are after and judging by the feedback we have received in the last couple of years we are confident that this has been delivered.
Russell Mill now sports 7 miles of trails ridden in one direction with enough connector trails that easily allow much of the system to be ridden forwards and backwards giving the potential for a 10 to 12 mile ride just at this site. One thing we have always attempted to include in our trail design is the ability to have enough of a different riding experience doing the same trail in reverse and make it easy to do so. We have learned a great deal from our great resources of trail design, NEMBA, IMBA, FOMBA and especially from the input of individual riders. We always try to incorporate Philip Keyes' "KISS" formula…KEEP IT SINGLETRACK STUPID.
With that said let me jump back to the part of the last paragraph where it said "just at this site". This is because one other unique thing about this property besides being fully supported by the local community and authorities is that it lies equidistant between two other great riding areas. Within, in both cases a little over a mile of "road work", is Great Brook Farm/State Forest in Carlisle where I know many of you have ridden for years and in the other direction Billerica State Forest.
Great Brook is known for being able to incorporate a 15+ mile solid intermediate ride into your schedule and allow for an ice cream/frappe stop to boot. An easy jaunt to the east is Billerica State Forest. Not known for an extensive or exciting riding experience, that will hopefully begin to change as MV gets more involved with the property. The DCR has expressed interest in having us work with them in evaluating the existing trail system and setting up a plan similar to what we have done at Lowell-Dracut. This would ultimately add another 7 to 10 miles of riding in the area giving the potential for 30+ miles worth of rides in the Chelmsford area alone, not to mention the ability to connect all the way to the PR in Bedford. Epic rides here we come!
Russell Mill is open all year round. We have a scheduled Friday night ride starting from the parking lot off Mill Rd., Chelmsford, Ma. Very much like the Tuesday night ride at Lowell/Dracut, the start time is 5pm and we swing back to the lot at approximately 5:45 for those who can't get there at 5. When the snow begins to fly there is a scheduled Friday night snowshoe walk at Russell. We have dubbed event this "Friday Night Lights". This, like our rides, is open to everyone, based on the premise that exercise is a good thing, being out in the woods is a good thing, beating down the snow on the trails is a good thing (we ride in the winter too), goes from 5pm to around 8:30, and is allowed and supported by the town. Great town!
Well hopefully this will create awareness and generate interest in MVs' latest trail project(s). Please feel free to check out the Russell Mill trails, whether you start at the lot or are extending a ride from Great Brook we hope to meet you out there sometime soon. As this is being written we are planning an Open House for the site on May 16th, hope maybe by the time you see this article you will have already taken the time to explore our newest endeavor and would consider hooking up with us on one of our rides or trail days.
Check out this video Youtube of the Pump Track!
130 Mill Rd, Chelmsford
From route 3 in Chelmsford take exit 29 and head West. Take your first left on Mill Road and follow it 1.3 miles to the parking lot at the soccer fields
By Robert Giunta