About Us

These pages are owned and maintained by the Friends of the Groton Trails Network. Our goal is to provide a user-friendly trail system that encourages residents to enjoy the open spaces and conservation land in Groton. We encourage people to see a different perspective of Groton by exploring our trails and parts of town never seen from the roadways. We promote the trails by setting up and staffing booths during Grotonfest, organizing hikes, and supporting the annual Groton Town Forest Trail Races.

We promote and support the work of the Groton Trails Committee, which is responsible for developing new trails and maintaining the existing trails network in Groton. Together we evaluate trail routes, consider safety issues, address parking and access, mark new trails, and revise the trail map to reflect additions and changes. We also organize hikes and work parties and are always looking for participants.

History of the Trails

Until as recently as thirty-five years ago (as of 2014), when Groton had half the population it does now, the town was criss-crossed by trails that were used by equestrians, motorbikes, and snowmobilers. Why, there were even car/truck “races” on the “roads” in the Town Forest! There were certainly also a few hikers and runners, but not many, and virtually no other forms of non-motorized recreation were observed in Groton “back then.” The equestrians, motorcyclists, and snowmobilers could go from one side of the town to the other over fields, through the woods, and over the many dirt roads that existed. Few property owners had any concerns about their friends and neighbors using the trails over their private property. The trails offered social and recreational opportunities for all those involved, and no doubt were an important factor in the perceived quality of life for all in Groton. Today, there are very few “public trails” remaining on lands owned by individuals; nevertheless, if you ask people in town, most will say we have a very good trail network. The history of this transformation is informative.

Groton has long held a strong vision for sustaining its natural resources, as evidenced by creating the Groton Town Forest by a vote of the Town Meeting in 1922, which made it the second town forest in the Commonwealth. However, through the mid-20th century, the need to protect public land in Groton, for conservation or recreation, except for a few small parks and fields, was minimal. Equestrian travel was very popular and there were few restrictions on where people could travel by horse.

It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that Groton began to preserve some of the parcels that provide the beautiful landscape we enjoy today. A new private organization also came to Groton in 1968 called the New England Forestry Foundation.

Despite those early efforts at protecting Groton’s open spaces for public use, a large proportion of Groton’s current open spaces remained privately owned and not open to the general public into the early 1980s. Up until 1980, only about 2,000 acres (27%) of a current total of about 7,350 acres of land was available for use by the general public. Then, in the late 1980s and 1990s, conservation land purchases rapidly escalated. It was during this 20-year period that Groton doubled in population, subdivisions were developed, and many house lots were sold off from larger parcels to capitalize on the rising demand for homes in town. Many of the trails that had been used for decades, and in some cases centuries beforehand, were interrupted by these newly introduced boundaries. Fortunately, this trend was recognized.

Through the collective efforts of the GCT, NEFF, Town of Groton, Conservation Commission, DCR, and DFW over this 20-year period, a total of nearly 3,276 acres, including over 47 miles of trails, were made available for public use. This represents 44% of the current land that can be accessed by the public in Groton. Many of the bestknown parcels in town were acquired (purchased or received as a gift) during this 20-year period.

Since 2000, conservation land purchases have slowed a bit and have become more strategic as land prices continued to rise. Many of the parcels were received from developers in exchange for them being able to develop subdivisions under Groton’s Flexible Development bylaw. Altogether, the same organizations listed above, plus a newcomer, Mass Audubon (2006), acquired more than 2,063 acres, including over 16 miles of trails that are now available for public use.

What may not be obvious from this brief (and condensed) history, is the fact that the trails that we enjoy today are predominantly the same trails that have existed in Groton for many, many decades. While some new trails have been developed to connect or expand the network, these account for less than 10% of the total miles of trails. What has happened is that the existing trails on private property owned by individuals have been made publicly accessible through acquisition of the parcels and/or trail easements.

This Website

The code for the website is freely available on GitHub. The online maps are powered by Mapbox, Leaflet, and OpenStreetMap. Our trail data is maintained in OpenStreetMap and can be downloaded from overpass turbo.

Contact Us

Email us at trails@townofgroton.org
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