What is the Danvers Rail Trail?

The Danvers Rail Trail (DRT) is managed and maintained by a group of community volunteers and provides a healthful recreational option for all Danvers residents and visitors. At 4.3 miles in length, the DRT is ideal for walking, biking, or jogging, and is built along what was once part of the historic Boston to Maine railroad running from Newburyport to Danvers. The purpose of the Danvers Rail Trail is to:

  • Provide Danvers residents a safe and pleasant recreational environment well suited for non-motorized activities such as walking, jogging, and biking.
  • Connect Danvers residents to each other and to other nearby communities by linking schools, downtown Danvers, parks, residential areas, and trails in the neighboring towns of Peabody, Wenham, and Topsfield.
  • Provide a platform for community service-oriented activities supporting local schools and like-minded organizations (Scouts, businesses, SwampWalk, etc.).

When did the idea begin of developing a recreational shared-use path through Danvers?

Committees to develop the existing underused and abandoned railroad corridor into a linear park were formed as early as the 1970’s. The idea of a developed shared-use recreational path has been seriously considered for over a decade. This idea has been part of past and current versions of the Danvers Master, Recreational and Open Space plans. In May 2006, Town Meeting voted to support efforts to move forward on the development of the path. In July of 2009, the Town Manager appointed a nine-member Rail Trail Advisory Committee consisting of members with broad representation from the community. A member of the Board of Selectmen has been designated as a liaison to the Committee.

Will the path extend to other towns?

Danvers is a member of the Boston to Border (B2B) Coalition whose objective is a 28-mile-long trail including the towns of Salisbury, Newburyport, Newbury, Georgetown, Boxford, Topsfield, Wenham. The current trail connects to Peabody in the south and Wenham in the north.

In May of 2018 Danvers Town Meeting voted to improve developing a plan to connect the current rail trail to Middleton. Updates will be posted to this website as planning work progresses.

What Are the Overall Rules for Trail Usage?

The times for trail usage are subject to the same rules that apply to all town-owned land (Section XXV.3). Usage will be restricted to dawn to dusk hours.

No lighting will be installed.

No snow removal is planned during the winter months. Thus, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bird watching, and trekking are suitable uses.

For the full set of Regulations Governing the Use of Town-Owned Land, see section XXV.3 of the towns bylaws.

Are Motorized Vehicles Allowed on the Trail?

Use by motorized vehicles (cars, ATV’s, mopeds, snowmobiles, etc.) is expressly forbidden in the MBTA lease, at any time of the year, with exceptions note below for the disabled.

Are Motorized Wheelchairs or Similar Devices Used by The Disabled Okay on the Trail?

In the case of devices used by the disabled, the safe and proper use of motorized mobility devices is allowed. These devices are allowed by Federal guidelines for “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government.” Users of motorized mobility devices on the trail should keep in mind that the Danvers Rail Trail is a shared use path where the interactions between trail users are frequent and unpredictable, and many sections the trail run very close to neighboring houses. The RTAC will work with disabled persons to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience for all trail users and neighbors:

Disabled persons wishing to use a motorized mobility device on the Trail should contact the Danvers RTAC for review (via our Contact Us Form). Once approved, the RTAC will inform the Danvers Police and will provide a card or letter to the user of the mobility device noting its approval for use on the Trail.

Is There a Speed Limit on the Trail?

Keeping in mind that the Danvers Rail Trail is a shared use path where the interactions between trail users are frequent and unpredictable, and many sections the trail run very close to neighboring houses, the RTAC asks that cyclists and mobility device users do not exceed speeds of greater than 10 mph. When used in the proximity of other trail users, speed should be reduced to ensure trail safety.

Are Horses Allowed on the Trail?

Horses are not allowed on the trail. With no ill will towards horses or horseback riders there are several reasons we do not allow horses on the trail, which include 1) pedestrian/cyclist safety given the narrow width of the trail and trail shoulders, 2) damage to the stone dust trail surface from horse hooves, and 3) clean-up.

What Approach is Taken to Pedestrian Safety and Emergency Access?

The Rail Trail is patrolled by the Danvers Police, weather permitting. If you have or see an emergency on the trail, call 911 and be prepared to provide the nearest mile marker number.

Pedestrian beacons and striped crosswalks have been painted at crossings, in accordance with the design preferred by DPW and public safety staff. A “cattle gate” was installed at the Wenham St crossing to ensure trail users coming from the north slow down before crossing Wenham St.

Road signs showing a pedestrian and bike symbol have been installed consistent with all other pedestrian crossings in Danvers.

With very few reports of cars/trucks on the trail (7 reports to the police between 2011 and 2016) the need for bollards was weighed against the benefit of having rapid emergency access for public safety and electric division vehicles on the trail, and the collision hazard posed for bikers. For these reasons, no bollards have been installed.

Trail users should contact the RTAC via Contact Us Form on our website or mobile app with questions/concerns regarding non-emergency safety on the trail. We will do our best to reply within in business day.

What Maintenance Activities are Performed on the Trail, and By Whom?

The RTAC is an all-volunteer group and manages much of the trail maintenance. Members of the RTAC and other volunteers’ responsibilities include:

  • Ensure the trail is walked 2-3 times per week to check for issues, and address as appropriate
  • Making smaller repairs to the trail surface such as filling holes and washouts, and repair trail entrances
  • Mowing the 2-5 feet of the trail edge about every 1-2 weeks during spring to fall.
  • Trimming/weed-whacking trail edges about 2-3 weeks.
  • The Porta-Potty company performs services and cleaning once or twice per week. In addition, volunteers check the potties, empty trash, and sweep them out 2-3 times per week.
  • Maintaining the mower and weed-whacker.
  • Picking up trash and dog waste 2-3 times per week.
  • Clearing smaller branches and brush
  • Major spring cleanup of winter debris (often using a dump truck)
  • Winter preparation in parking areas to reduce snow plowing onto the trail.

The RTAC works with the Town of Danvers to address larger issues such as:

  • Repairing major damage to trail crossings and surface (i.e. when large equipment and specialized expertise is needed)
  • Repairing damage to major trail infrastructure (e.g. bridges).
  • Removing larger trees/branches that fall onto the trail
  • Addressing illegal dumping on and/or along the trail

Are Improvements Such as Gardens and Lawns Along the Trail Allowed?

The RTAC encourages trail users and neighbors to maintain and make appropriate improvements to areas that runs along the trail (generally 3 to 10 feet beside the trail).

You must first contact the RTAC to review the improvements (using our Contact Us Form). If needed, we will contact the Danvers Electric Division and/or DPW for advice.

Gardens with low flowers and/or bushes, lawns, paving stones, or benches that leave a 3 foot strip for mowing, and with a commitment to maintenance are generally okay.

Any improvements must not impede Electric Division maintenance or mowing nor risk interference with power lines. Improvements must not encroach on neighboring property, without the neighbor’s permission. Improvements must not restrict trail user or vehicular sight lines at crossings.

Improvements do not in any way alter ownership of the trail right of way. Improvements may be damaged during trail and power line maintenance.

Are Memorials Allowed on the Trail?

“In Memory” mile marker sponsorships are allowed and encouraged on the trail. See our website and mobile app Sponsorship page. Other than mile markers, other memorials are not allowed on the trail.

If an individual would like to donate a functional improvement to the trail (e.g. a bench), that the RTAC feels is in line with trail user needs, that is appreciated and will be evaluated. This item could be marked with small plaque (or something similar) noting the donation source. See the benches at Brooksby Village as an example.

Are Signs Such as for Yard Sales, Charities, Business Advertising Allowed on the Trail?

No. Placing advertising/announcements of any kind on Town of Danvers property is not permitted (Town Bylaw Chapter XXV “Regulation Governing the Use of Town-Owned Land” Section 3a).

When signs are seen on the trail, the RTAC will remove the signs and do their best to notify the sign owners so they may reclaim the signs. We will continue to place/allow signs on the trail that inform users of trail closures or guide event participants during an event.

Can I Run and Event on the Trail?

The RTAC encourages community and other non-profit groups to hold events on the trail. Walks, family bike events, and fun runs are examples of good events for the trail.

Any event held on the trail must recognize the nature of a narrow-shared use path, and may not include bike races with speeds more than 10 mph.

Depending on the nature of the event, Board of Selectman and Danvers Police approval may be needed.

If you have events you would like to run on the trail, please let us know via our Contact Us Form and we will do our best to address your questions.

Can I Put My Yard Waste and Other Debris on Trail Sidings?

No. The Rail Trail is town property. It runs within the Danvers Electric Division right-of-way, which includes a 10 to 15-foot strip of land on either side of the trail. Town of Danvers Bylaw Section XXV.3.a “expressly prohibits the… littering, dumping, or placing of waste of any description on Town-owned lands.”

Please treat trail users and neighbors with respect and do not dump illegally on the trail. If you see illegal dumping, please contact the Danvers Police Department and/or Board of Health.

How Can I Support Rail Trail Activities?

Rail Trail maintenance and improvements are generally funded from donations. To help you can:

  • Purchase a mile marker
  • Make a donation
  • Provide in-kind services
  • Attend a monthly RTAC meeting to learn about current projects.

Contact us via our website Contact Us Form to learn more.

What is the surface of the trail?

The trail surface is compacted stone dust, which is the same surface used on the adjoining trails in Peabody, Wenham, and Topsfield. Compacted stone dust is designed to support walking, cycling (including road bikes), strollers, and mobility devices. Just how compact the surface is at any given point can vary, so caution is advised for cyclists, as the surface can be looser.