Could Abandoned Road Spring Back to Life?


Map segment above shows Spring Street, theoretically running from south to north from Washington to West Central, for much of its length passing through the State Forest. The red line is the SNETT trail.

One of the many items on the agenda for Wednesday’s Town Council meeting is Spring Street, once an important through street and now essentially a stub.

At least as far back as 1808, according to research conducted earlier this year by Julie Jacobson, a special assistant to Town Administrator Jamie Hellen, there was a “town road” known as Spring Street. Then as now, it extended from the roads now known as Washington Street to that known as West Central Street.

Its status in the Town’s geography was confirmed by documents discovered from 1870, with the Southern part being fairly busy, leading to the post office and train station in the village of Wadsworth, where the SNETT trail currently crosses its path. As a narrow road for much of its length it continued to be used as a cut through by intrepid drivers up until perhaps 25-30 years ago.

It still shows up as a road on the town’s GIS system but good lucking transiting past where the houses peter out. How it devolved into little more than a trail is unclear. No one seems to know and Jacobson’s research, which runs to more than 50 pages, also leaves the matter shrouded in mystery. All that is clear is that even in the years when the DPW found the resources to plow the private lots of the town’s largest religious organization, it apparently stopped making any attempt to keep Spring Street usable. In fairness, there was some back and forth in the early 1990s on the subject, and many favored properly paving the road as a vital public safety link. But that never happened.

So, why the sudden interest in this unmaintained byway?

Hellen explains that it is an idea that has been kicking around in his head for several years as a possible means to provide better access to the Franklin State Forest.

“We were able to secure money for the Beaver Street/Grove Street parking lot and we also got a parking lot at the top of the hill on Spring Street from the solar company, so we have new access points,” he explained. Now the town is investigating whether having the road or not having the road designated as a public way might be advantageous to getting more state investment into building more sustainable trails and access points to the Forest, he added. More on the subject will doubtless be provided to the Council on Wednesday.

And for all the old timers who miss the potholes, washouts, and forest incursion on the “short cut” of old Spring Street, Hellen adds, “I cannot imagine that "road" would ever be a road again in the traditional sense, but a trailhead into a network of trails in the State Forest, that may just be possible.”

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