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Maynard man brings beauty (and pollinators) to rail trail

David Mark along with a team of local volunteers came to one of the very first Trail of Flowers plantings in 2018.David Mark

Native flowers, shrubs, and trees now decorate the unique pathways of the Assabet River Rail Trail thanks to a local resident, David Mark, who began a project to beautify the trail back in 2018.

The trail is a historic railroad converted into a 12.5-mile-long pathway passing through the communities of Marlborough, Hudson, Stow, Maynard, and Acton. The Acton and Maynard portions were paved in 2018, and the Stow portion has recently received a grant for designing its completion.

Mark has been an avid member of the Assabet River Rail Trail Inc., a nonprofit that has aided in the development of the route, since early in its history. Once the Maynard portion was completed, he was left thinking of new ways to continue his passion for gardening and developing the outdoor resource.

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“I had been volunteering for the trail for a really long time, and with it being paved I was just looking for another way of being involved,” he said. From there, he began Trail of Flowers, which aims to make the path more interesting by planting flowering bulbs, annuals and perennials.

In the first year of the project, Mark garnered individual donations and flowers donated from the Gardeners Club in Maynard to spur his plans of beautification into motion.

Since then, the project has expanded to communities beyond Maynard.

“The goal is to have it where flowers are planted along the rail trail that are relatively low-maintenance and relatively low-cost, and just add to the beauty,” said Mark. “But also, there was a lot of input last year in Maynard, Acton, and Marlborough that this should be a conscious effort to have pollinator-friendly plants be planted along the rail trail.”

According to Mark, his efforts originally only included daffodils and tulips, which he referred to as “eye candy” not geared toward pollinators.

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Beginning last year, the planting efforts by Trail of Flowers expanded to include flowering shrubs and trees that are native pollinators, some of which included beauty bush and winterberry. The process behind selecting these plants was backed up by reference sites, according to Mark.

He says it is easy to self-educate on the topic with the abundance of resources available on the Web. Organizations including Mass Audubon and Plant Something MA highlight lists of easy-to-grow native species.

“We’re still continuing those tulips for that spring punch, but we’re including pollinator-friendly plantings,” said Mark.

As of last fall, Trail of Flowers had planted more than 6,000 daffodils and hundreds of other plants in Acton, Maynard, and Marlborough, with Hudson to be added this year.

“I like it when I’m going and walking down the trail and all of a sudden there’s some daffodils,” said Tom Kelleher, an Acton resident who’s president of the trail’s nonprofit group. “That’s totally cool because they’re relatively obscure in the sense you don’t tend to see them on a public path.”

This spring, the Maynard Community Gardeners and Middlesex Conservation district has donated unsold plants from their spring plant sales so that Trail of Flowers was able to add more than 50 irises and 200 daylilies in Maynard.

In preparation for the fall, Trail of Flowers will be recruiting high school students for planting events.

For information on how to volunteer, visit trailofflowers.com.


Grace Gilson can be reached at grace.gilson@globe.com.