An early map of the Bay Circuit, prepared by the Trustees of Public Reservations, shows a protected corridor similar to that which is nearing completion today.
caption An early map of the Bay Circuit, prepared by the Trustees of Public Reservations, shows a protected corridor similar to that
which is nearing completion today.

Compiled by Marc Chalufour

AMC Outdoors, September 2011

The idea of protecting a corridor of open spaces looping from Boston's north to south shores arose in the late 1920s. Exactly who first conceived of the Bay Circuit isn't known. The concept emerged from the work of the Committee on the Needs and Uses of Open Spaces and Benton MacKaye, who was hired to survey Massachusetts' open spaces. His survey identified the Bay Circuit as the top conservation priority for the state. Proponents of the plan—in particular, The Trustees of Public Reservations (later renamed The Trustees of Reservations)—kept it alive for decades, but made little progress. Finally, with the help of the newly formed Bay Circuit Alliance, the first official section of Bay Circuit Trail was dedicated in 1990. It's been a long journey, but the Bay Circuit now loops around Boston for 200 miles.

Read more about the Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway in the AMC Outdoors feature story, "A Long Journey."

1925
The Trustees of Public Reservations hold a conference on open spaces, attended by representatives of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Mass Audubon, and others. A Committee on the Needs and Uses of Open Spaces is formed to study conservation priorities in Massachusetts. The Governor, Alvan T. Fuller, eventually recognized the committee, and they ultimately reported their findings directly to him.

1928
Benton MacKaye, originator of the Appalachian Trail, is hired to survey Massachusetts land for the Committee on the Needs and Uses of Open Spaces. In an early progress report MacKaye writes, "The Spaces should lie in lines or belts rather than in scattered fragments: they should form circuits for making outdoor trips from the adjacent cities."

August 1928
MacKaye submits his report, "Wilderness Ways: A Plan for Distribution of Open Spaces in Massachusetts," to the Committee.

1929
The "Report of the Governor's Committee on the Needs and Uses of Open Spaces" is presented to Governor Fuller. The report is not written by MacKaye, but by Charles Bird and Laurence Fletcher of The Trustees of Public Reservations. Nonetheless, it uses some of MacKaye's work, ranks the Bay Circuit as its top priority, and includes a detailed map of the proposed project.

October 1930
MacKaye publishes a column in the Boston Globe: "Super By-Pass for Boston: A New Proposal for the Bay Circuit." He envisions separate north- and southbound highways, separated by a wide swath of parkland. "The Boston Bay Circuit is not the hub of the universe," he writes. "But it can be made the center of a widening influence on the map of American activity."

January 1938
"The Bay Circuit," a glossy booklet about the project, is completed by MacKaye and published by The Trustees of Public Reservations.

1956
Governor Christian Herter signs legislation officially establishing the Bay Circuit, but no funding is provided.

1984
A $162 million Massachusetts public space land acquisition bond authorizes $3.25 million for the Bay Circuit. Two parcels of land are purchased and 28 communities receive grants to conduct open space planning studies.

March 8, 1990
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management holds a meeting at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Joy Street office to enlist help with the Bay Circuit. Representatives from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program, as well as from a number of local and regional conservation organizations, including AMC, are in attendance. The volunteer Bay Circuit Alliance is formed as a result.

June 1990
Al French of the Bay Circuit Alliance and Steve Golden and Ron McAdow of the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program thru-trek from Crane Beach in Ipswich to Bay Farm in Duxbury. They travel by foot, canoe, and bicycle, approximating the eventual Bay Circuit Trail route.

November 17, 1990
The first section of Bay Circuit Trail is dedicated, in Boxford, Mass.

June 1991
Over four days, groups trek from both ends of the Bay Circuit to the middle, meeting at the Minuteman National Historic Monument in Concord.

September 24, 1992
The Bay Circuit Alliance holds its first annual meeting, at AMC's Joy Street office.

June 2009
Volunteers from the AMC Boston Chapter Trails Committee and the Bay Circuit Alliance complete the Charles River Link Trail. The 16-mile route between Newton/Wellesley and the Bay Circuit Trail in Medfield represents the first of what could eventually be several trail "spokes" stretching from towns inside the circuit to its outer rim.

September 2012
AMC and The Trustees of Reservations announce a new collaboration to assist the Bay Circuit Alliance (BCA) in the completion, enhancement, and long-term protection of the 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway.