The Helical Pile Bridge, one of seven bridges on the trail, provides views of wildlife and wetlands. (Gregg Shupe)

Quequechan River Rail Trail
Fall River, Massachusetts

Project owner: City of Fall River, Massachusetts
Designer: Brown, Richardson + Rowe Inc.
Size: 15 acres (6 ha), 2 miles long (3.2 km)

The Quequechan River Trail is reusing an abandoned rail right-of-way to provide public access to the Quequechan River, offering benefits for the community, improving water quality, and creating valuable wetland habitat. In 1958, the construction of Interstate 195 split the city in half and blocked access to the river. The new trail, made possible through strong partnerships, now provides almost two miles (3.2 km) of trails to pedestrians and bicyclists and restores a connection to the Quequechan River.

After decades of planning, the trail opened in summer 2016 and is an integral part of a long-term regional plan to connect Providence, Rhode Island, to Provincetown, Massachusetts, by bicycle. Planning, design, and construction were funded by the Gateway City Parks Program through the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Project partners also include the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District, and the city of Fall River, all of which worked together to align the project schedule with proposed budgeting for the trail. The creative alignment of multiple stakeholders and funding partners made this seven-bridge park with a construction cost of $7 million possible. The Friends of the Quequechan River Rail Trail Association will help support the city in operating and maintaining the trail.

The Quequechan River Rail Trail has been transformational for the Fall River community. It runs through three low-income neighborhoods, where residents suffer from high rates of diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, and the lack of accessible open space for recreation. Fall River residents have reported an increase in daily activity and a greater sense of safety and pride in their community. A health impact assessment and subsequent surveys reveal a 66 percent increase in walking and biking as a direct result of the park’s presence. Businesses at either end of the trail are upgrading their facilities.

The multiuse trail has attractive entries, connects to two sizable parks, and offers a range of recreational opportunities. Comfortable seating areas and overlooks in a range of sizes provide space that has inspired local groups to develop creative programming that appeals to diverse users and age groups. Multiple programs celebrate the history of the Quequechan River and the mill town history of the land and people. The 2018 History Walk will focus on the connections among slavery, the cotton industry, and the fabric factories of Fall River. Other events on the river include cultural festivals with music, art, yoga, and dancing. The Friends of the Quequechan River Rail Trail Association also holds events in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The Quequechan River Rail Trail has given Fall River residents a strong sense of renewed pride and has had a transformational impact on the community.