The Waverley Trail runs for about 0.7 miles along a route that runs: from east to west along Trapelo Road in Belmont; and then through the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Beaver Brook Reserve which straddles the Belmont-Waltham town line. In 2015, the Trail was recognized as a National Recreation Trail (NRT) by the United States National Park Service, signifying its status as a resource of national significance. A description of the Waverley Trail can be found in the NRT website at https://www.nrtdatabase.org/trailDetail.php?recordID=3679 .
The Waverley Trail project was originally imagined in 2005 by Jim Levitt, an historian of the American conservation movement and resident of Belmont, working with an advisory committee whose tireless members included individuals who lived and worked in Belmont and Waltham, including: Marie Daly, Sheila Flewelling, Kathleen Haverty, Karl Haglund, Diane Hirsch, David Johnson, Sam Knight, Steve Savarese, Paul Solomon and Adam Tocci.
As the concept developed, the Belmont Land Trust, with leadership from its President Neal Winston, Treasurer Sam Knight and Board Member Ron Geiger, agreed to take the project under its wing. Work to create, design, finance and install the Trail proceeded under the Waverley Trail Advisory Committee to the Belmont Land Trust. The Belmont Land Trust collected donations for the project from a variety of donors including private citizens and local businesses whose names appear on the various Trail panels displayed in the “Tour of the Trail” section of this website.
The actual design of the interpretive panels, wayfinding signs, sidewalk medallions and banners displayed along the Trail was undertaken by Roll, Barresi & Associates, a Cambridge-based design firm whose principals participated in the design of Boston’s famed Freedom Trail as well as the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Michaelann Zimmerman led Roll, Barressi’s work on the effort with considerable skill, patience and tact.
The Waverley Trail was inaugurated on Arbor Day in April 2007 at a celebration in the gymnasium of Belmont’s Butler Elementary School. The ceremony, attended by several hundred school children and local citizens, featured a youth choir and presentations from officials from the Town of Belmont, the City of Waltham and the State of Massachusetts. A beautiful Arbor Day video featuring the Waverley Trail was produced and aired by the New England Cable Network at the time.
In 2009, several panels were added to the Trail, completing the interpretive path from Waverley Square to the Waverley Oaks. On June 18 of that year, a packed house gathered at Mass Audubon’s Habitat Education Center and Nature Sanctuary in Belmont to hear from a series of distinguished guests, including Rand Wentworth, President of the Land Trust Alliance (the national organization, based in Washington, D.C., that represents land trusts from all 50 states), as well as: Richard Sullivan, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation; Gary Clayton, President of the Massachusetts Audubon Society; and Wes Ward, Vice President of The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR). The Trustees, as TTOR is also known, is the organization whose creation was inspired by Charles Eliot’s editorials about the Waverley Oaks inGarden and Forest published in early 1890s. With the momentum started by those editorials, The Trustees were granted a charter from the Commonwealth and so became the world’s first regional land trust.
The 2009 ceremony focused on the recognition of past, present and future generations of stewards of Waverley’s natural and cultural heritage. Historic champions cited included Judy Record of Belmont, Kit Burstein of Waltham, and Massachusetts State Senate President Richard Furbush of Waltham. Present-day stewards featured included Rene Morin, at the time the DCR employee responsible for the day-to-day care of the Beaver Brook Reservation through which the Waverley Trail runs.
Press coverage of this events included a story in the Boston Globe: Honoring the roots of the land trust movement. The story was also covered by the Belmont Citizen Herald: Celebration of stewardship at Waverley Trail Thursday. Governor Deval Patrick mentioned The Waverley Trail prominently in his 2007 Arbor Day Proclamation.
Since its creation, the Waverley Trail has hosted numerous visits from local neighbors, national conservation scholars public officials and a range of conservation practitioners from around the globe. To cite one prominent example, in about 2008, a delegation of conservationists and policy makers from Chile visited the Waverley Trail during a study tour that took them to dozens of venues in New York and New England. The impact of their visit to the Waverley Oaks and to Belmont’s Lone Tree Hill conservation land was reportedly very strong. That visit helped to launch a drive over more than a decade to establish legal and financial tools such as: the creation of a law allow the use of the Derecho Real de Conservacion in Chile (an analog to what Massachusetts conservationists call a Conservation Restriction or Conservation Easement) and; a Chilean law allowing for the tax deductibility of the gift of an easement to a unit of government or qualified non-governmental organization.
Similarly, after a study tour that included the Waverley Trail and a dozen other sites from Boston to Hanover, New Hampshire, a group of Chinese conservationists, principally from the civic (non-profit) sector composed a plan that led to the creation of the Chinese Civic Land Conservation Alliance, a group that is active in protecting conservation lands in several Chinese provinces.
In addition, in 2012 — and for several years after — each of Belmont’s second grade classrooms (from Burbank, Butler, Wellington and Winn Brook Elementary Schools) visited the Waverley Trail. The children who walked the Trail with their teachers and trained Waverley Trail Guides were excited to learn that Belmont is the home of an innovation in conservation that has, in the twenty-first century, spread to six continents. Although changes in the public school priorities have caused that effort to be put on hold, new opportunities to work with school children in Belmont are now emerging.
A copy of the Guidelines for Waverley Trail Guides, which offers curriculum information useful on a walk of the Waverley Trail with younger students, is available in the Resources section of the website.