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GroundbreakingRemember this great celebration in October of 2013 celebrating the ground breaking  of a mile long park/walking trail/bike trail in Upper Falls?

Mayor Warren, Secretary of Transportion Richard Davey, several aldermen and lots of residents all gathered together to make way for Newton’s newest park – the Upper Falls Greenway.

Well this week the Newton TAB’s Jenna Fisher reports on why the project — one year behind scheduled completion — remains unfinished  and — even more disturbing — is now without its most valuable physical asset: the steel rails and ties that were going to fund the project.

As Fisher reminds us, the city contracted last year with Iron Horse Preservation Society, a nonprofit that converts abandoned railroads into usable recreational trails. The work was to be done at no cost to taxpayers in exchange for allowing Iron Horse to sell the rails and railroad ties and was to be completed in, according to the NewTV report below in “less than five weeks” or, according to later reports, June of 2014.


But as Joe Hattrup of the Iron Horse explains to Fisher…

“We got stuck.”

… Hattrup [said] the delay has to do with his business model. Iron Horse works on a low budget; he said he makes about $50,000 selling a mile’s worth of railroad ties and track for scrap. Much of that goes toward paying workers, buying soil, laying paths, paperwork with the state and building benches. When he’s working on smaller jobs, such as Newton’s mile, he depends on income from his next projects to help cover costs.

“We had three projects that were promised to us this year,” he said, “so we figured our overhead this spring and summer would be covered.”

I’m not a lawyer — and perhaps there’s another term to explain Iron Horse’s business model — but it sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me.

Hattrup says he’s still committed to finishing our trail, using funds from other projects to come through.

But really, what municipality — or other entity — is going to agree to let Iron Horse (their slogan, by the way, is “A beautiful trail, every time”) take their valuable raw materials now that Hattrup’s dubious business model is public?

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