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Walking the aqueducts to become legal soon

2012 May 22
by Jerry Reilly

The MetroWest Daily News reported today that the MWRA is changing their policy about people walking on their aqueducts.   Up until now “walking the pipes” has been on shaky legal ground.  The aqueducts are the private property of the MWRA and neighborhood people walking on them have been trespassing except in cases where specific agreements have been arranged with the towns.

It sounds like under the new policy, the entire length of the aqueducts will now be open for public access.  Newton has miles of these aqueducts (the Sudbury and the Cochituate) and the trails are well used in most places.

Just this past Sunday I walked the six mile aqueduct loop trail with four friends, so its nice to know that I soon won’t be a reckless scofflaw.  There’s no word yet on whether they’ll be offering retroactive immunity for previous trespassers.



12 Responses Post a comment
  1. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 22, 2012 02:13 PM

    A Framingham Patch story indicates that it may already have been legal in Newton by previous agreement with the MWRA. If so, they should probably take down a couple of “No Trespassing” signs on the route and maybe even remove a fence (on Arlo Rd)

  2. Mike Striar permalink
    May 22, 2012 03:28 PM

    Apparently walking on water is much more common than once thought. But it’s important for these walkers to understand, it’s walk at your own risk.

  3. Bill Brandel permalink
    May 22, 2012 05:23 PM

    That’s hysterical. There are sections of the aqueduct that people have landscaped. Welcome to the 19th century, MWRA!

    What’d be cool is if they connected all of the trails. I was walking with my wife and two Australian tourists (yes, they came all that way to traverse the legendary aqueduct), and we all ended up in someone’s back yard near Walnut St. That was kind of awkward.

  4. Ted Hess-Mahan permalink
    May 22, 2012 05:47 PM

    Jerry, how do you know the “No Trespassing” signs were to keep people off the aqueduct? Maybe it belongs to abutters who do not want people (like Bill Brandel and some Aussies) trespassing in their back yards.

  5. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 22, 2012 06:18 PM

    Ted – The one I’m thinking of is clearly an MWRA sign. The aqueduct path runs straight into the sidewalk on Arlo St but there’s a chain link fence, a padlocked gate and a no trespassing sign by the MWRA between the sidewalk and the path. Fortunately though, it’s no big obstacle to go around the fence.

    Bill – yes, that’s a curious spot. The main trail just ends in someone’s driveway. Fortunately they seem to be OK with the foot traffic. In fact, in my experience, nearly all of the abutters seem very supportive of these neighborhood footpaths and are usually very friendly.

  6. Steve Siegel permalink
    May 22, 2012 06:55 PM


    Most of the aquaduct real estate in Newton is City-owned, and shows as City property even on very old maps. I’m not home now to check, but I believe that the 1929 Waban survey plate hanging on my dining room wall shows the Cochituate Aquaduct which runs behind my property as being owned by Newton even then.

    Another bit of strangeness: Small fragments along the length of the Cochituate Aquaduct are indeed privately owned, including stretches right outside of Waban Square and running parallel to Woodward Street, and between Park Lane and Bracebridge Road near Mason Rice.

  7. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 22, 2012 07:35 PM

    Steve – The Newton on-line GIS tax map shows the Cochituate aqueduct as being owned by the city and the Sudbury owned by the “Metro Water and Sewer Board” which is probably now the MWRA.

  8. BOB BURKE permalink
    May 23, 2012 07:55 AM

    The signs when we were kids stated that both the aqueducts (Sudbury and Cochituate) were the property of the Metropolitan District Commission, not the City of Newton. There was an old MDC employee named Pat whose job was to walk the length of the Sudbury Reservoir three times a week to make certain there had been no vandalism or any other problem on MDC property. Maybe some of the land transferred to Newton at some point along the line, but it was pretty well understood in the 40’s and early 50’s that the aqueducts were State MDC property.

  9. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 23, 2012 10:17 AM

    Here’s a story about it in today’s Boston Globe.

  10. fignewtonville permalink
    May 23, 2012 03:14 PM

    So wait…what’s the bottom line. Are we going to be able to have new walking trails?

  11. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 23, 2012 03:35 PM

    No my reading of it is this:

    Those trails have been well used for years. While walking on them has been technically trespassing they have in effect been public trails for years. So mostly this seems to just be legalizing what’s always been going on.

    The one place it may make some difference is in the places where the trails are partially or fully blocked. There’s a few places where the MWRA has some easy to get around fences with “no trespassing” signs – maybe they’ll come done. There’s a few places where abutting homeowners have tried to discourage walkers by planting vegetation and trying to disguise that path. With the new rules it might be easier to keep those parts of the trails clear.

  12. margaux permalink
    July 7, 2014 07:43 AM

    I grew up on Joseph rd in Saxonville and the awarding was in our back yard. We walked to school that way every single day.

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