NORTH CENTRAL PATHWAY LETTERBOX:

GARDNER-WINCHENDON, MASSACHUSETTS

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Planted:                May 24, 2006

Length:                Gardner's northeast section; 0.8 miles

                              On-road connector between Gardner & Winchendon; 1 mile

                              Winchendon's sections; 4.2 miles

                              Gardner's northwest section; 2.3 miles

                              Old Gardner Road parking lot to Letterbox; 0.7 miles 

Difficulty:            Easy. Paved, flat trail.

                              Moderate. Undeveloped rail trail is hard packed dirt, but very passable.

                              Difficult; On-road section has a lot of hills and a brief section is along busy Route 140.

Directions:

To start from Gardner; Take exit 22 off of Route 2 to Route 68 north. When you enter downtown, take a right onto Route 101. Head through downtown and pass by the Town Green on your left where there is a Civil War Monument and some cannons. At the end of the green, turn left onto Park/Clark Street. Immediately to your right will be the entrance to the Gardner Veterans Skating Rink. Park here. The trail starts from the rear of the rink.

To start from Winchendon; Take exit 24 off of Route 2 to Route 140 north. 

To start from the Route 140 parking lot; Before crossing into Winchendon, look for a small parking lot along the right side of the road just past the Green St intersection on your left.

To start from the Old Gardner Rd  parking lot; After crossing into Winchendon, look for Old Gardner Road on your right. Just down this road is the parking lot on the left.

To start from the Glenallan St  parking lot; Take Route 140 north to Route 12 and head left. Look for Glenallan St on your right. The parking lot is on your left by the pond.

The North Central Pathway is a planned 16 mile trail linking the historic downtowns of Gardner and Winchendon. In Gardner a paved trail travels north along the east side of Crystal Lake while an undeveloped rail trail travels north along the west side of the lake. Both trails link up (on-road) to the main rail trail which starts off Route 140 in Gardner and travels north to Winchendon. This trail travels along the former rail bed of the B&M RR Worcester & Hillsboro Branch that ran to Contoocook NH. You may start from Gardner along the paved trail, connect on-road to the Winchendon section and return via the undeveloped rail trail. Plans call for extending the trail north into downtown Winchendon and South along the undeveloped rail trail into Gardner. 

Starting from the Gardner Veterans Skating Rink; [Gardner's northeast section] The paved trail starts from the backside of the rink and follows the eastern shore of Crystal Lake north. After 0.7 miles, you come to a parking lot located alongside Green St. Cross over Green St where the trail passes in front of Mount Wachusett Community College and ends at a side road at 0.8 miles. In order to connect to the Winchendon section of the trail, you must use an On-Road Connector. [This is not recommended for kids on bikes as it crosses, then briefly travels alongside busy Route 140]. Continue straight along this side street and turn left when you reach Eaton St. This will bring you back to Green St. Travel right on-road utilizing the wide shoulder. This will bring you to Route 140 at 1.4 miles. A bit tricky crossing over Route 140. Go with the traffic light and use Extreme Caution. Head left alongside Route 140 utilizing the wide shoulder and you'll come to the start of  the paved trailhead and Route 140 parking lot on your right after 1.8 miles.

Note; You may continue north into Winchendon or cross back over Route 140 and take the Undeveloped Rail Trail back to Gardner. {See below for directions}.

Continuing north from the Route 140 parking lot; [Winchendon section] The paved trail heads into the woods along the old rail trail. This section is very straight with a slight grade and isolated.

Note; Re-zeroing mileage to 0 from the Route 140 parking lot.   

After 0.6 miles you'll pass by an old granite mileage marker on your right with W 30 stamped in it, indicating to the railroad that it's 32 miles to Worcester. These mileage markers are placed every mile along the rail bed. A mile takes you between a scenic marsh with a small brook and soon after you'll pass by a couple of benches. Mile marker W 31at 1.6 miles. You'll start to see and hear Route 140 again after 2 1/4 miles and come to mile marker W 32 at 2.6 miles. From this marker, take 30 paces (2 steps = 1 pace) BACK along the trail. You'll pass by 3 boulders on your left along the way. Turn right and head off the trail and up the small embankment. Look for a grove of Pine trees. At the base of one of these trees will be a pile of rocks. In the crotch of this tree, under a rock will be the North Central Pathway Letterbox. Please replace this rock carefully so as not to crush the box. Continuing onward the trail now travels behind a residential area, crosses Teel Rd and finally comes to a map board after 3.3 miles. The Old Gardner Road parking lot is across the street to your left.

Note; The trail continues straight, however, it is undeveloped with a dirt base and ruts from ATV use [Undeveloped as of September 2011]. When complete, this section will tie in with a second paved section further north in Winchendon which starts from Glenallan Street. See below.

Starting from the Glenallan Street parking lot; [Winchendon section] A sign board is located at the start of this paved rail trail as it travels alongside Whitney Pond. Benches are located along the trail which soon veers off the old rail bed to follow the contours of the pond. At 0.6 miles you rejoin the old rail bed as the trail travels over an old RR trestle. A second RR trestle parallels this bridge which passes over a dam for the pond. Below left is Tannery Pond. The trail then passes some old mill buildings before turning left down Summer Drive alongside some ball fields. The trail currently ends at Summer St after 0.9 miles. Right up Summer St brings you to Central St where you can grab some chow.

Looping back to Gardner along the Undeveloped Rail Trail; [Gardner's northwest section] From the Route 140  parking lot; You may cross over Route 140 and enter the dirt road with the DEP sign. {USE EXTREME CAUTION as there is no cross-walk and fast moving traffic}. Pass by the brown gate and travel along the old rail trail. This short dirt road section brings you to an electric sub-station. Go around it and you'll see another mileage marker (W 29). The road then converts back to a rail trail of hard packed dirt, but is pretty smooth. You travel past a small pond and follow the transmission lines to your left. At a 1/2 mile the trail runs alongside a hill with the power lines above you and a pond below. I believe it's part of Perley Brook Reservoir, which you get a better view of shortly. You then cross over Park St where the trail continues alongside Gardner Municipal Golf Course. Marker W 28 at 1.2 miles. The trail then briefly becomes a single track and ends at 1.4 miles at a road. The rail trail ahead is impassable, so you must take a left and pass through Crystal Lake Cemetery. This is a very scenic cemetery located along the western banks of Crystal Lake. If you look across the lake, you'll see a brick building. Gardner's paved trail section  runs behind it along the eastern shoreline. After exiting the cemetery, you'll pass underneath the power lines at 1.8 miles. I believe this is where the rail trail would have crossed. Next, follow the sidewalk alongside the black fence out to Park/Clark Street and turn left. Follow Park/Clark Street past the pool and Greenwood Memorial building and up past the Town Green on your right where the Civil War Monument and cannons are located. Just before the junction of Route 101, on your left will be the entrance to the Gardner Veterans Skating Rink. Enter here to access the paved trail at 2.3 miles to continue the trip north back to Winchendon. From here, you can also explore downtown Gardner by heading right along Route 101.

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

MAY 22, 2010

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