The North Central Pathway is a recreational trail that began as a dream conjured up by a few local people in the mid 1990's. In 1996, with funding from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, a master plan was completed for a bike trail connecting the historic downtowns of Gardner and Winchendon.
The first mile, completed in 1997, runs from behind Veteran's Skating Rink on Park Street in Gardner to Green Street, just north of Heywood Hospital. The bike route continues for another 2.5 miles along Green, Kelton, Wheeler and Stone Streets.
In 2000, eight miles of abandoned railroad bed were purchased, most of which is in Winchendon. Work on a 3.2 mile section of the railroad bed was completed during the summer of 2003.
Plans to develop another mile of railroad bed from Winchendon center to Route 202 are currently in the works. This section is expected to be completed in 2007.
The North Central Pathway Committee is currently working to establish a link from Stone Street to the Gardner end of the railroad bed, completing a consecutive eight-mile section expected to attract local recreational enthusiasts as well as tourists. It is anticipated that the trail will eventually connect with the Dunn Pond Heritage State Park facility on Pearl Street in Gardner.
When completed in 2012, approximately 16 miles of paved trail will link Gardner and Winchendon centers, meandering through mostly wooded areas featuring beautiful scenic views including Crystal Lake and Whitney Pond and crossing wooden bridges over the Millers River and various streams and brooks.
The North Central Pathway is open from dawn to dusk for recreational use including walking, jogging, bicycling, roller-blading, skateboarding and cross country skiing in most areas. Some sections of the trails are plowed during the winter for walking. Motorized vehicles, such as ATV's and dirt bikes, are prohibited.
The completed sections of the trail are asphalt paved making it the ideal spot for wheelchair use. When the trail is finished, all bike path sections will be handicapped accessible.