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Holt Hill in Andover has long been a popular place to walk dogs and take children on nature walks. But now it’s part of a network of trails that form a C-shape around Boston, connecting the north shore to the south.

“I’ve heard people call this the Bay Secret Trail," says Heather Clish, director of conservation and recreation policy at the Appalachian Mountain Club, or AMC. She’s walking with her son along the trail. “One of the things that we hope to do is to introduce people to the fabulous resource that it is here, really close to where a lot of people live. You don’t need to drive 3 hours to get out here in the woods, on a hill, on a view. It’s something that people in all of Eastern Massachusetts and even Southern New Hampshire and Rhode Island can get to so easily and enjoy it for an afternoon.”

The Bay Circuit trail will soon connect 57 Boston-area communities, and stretches from Plum Island and Ipswich to the Duxbury/Kingston shore. It passes Walden Pond in Concord and Tippling Rock in Sudbury, one of the highest points in Eastern Massachusetts. But the AMC’s involvement came after a long volunteer effort initiated by Andover resident, Al French. For decades, French owned a popular local outdoor equipment store and had a strong interest in the Boston area’s greenway concept.

“I’m probably put down as an obsessive trails person," French admits. "We called the area south of Boston ‘terra incognita’ because we really didn’t know where we were going. But it had the function of bringing people out of the woodwork. You kind of beat the bushes and people showed up.”

That was June of 1990. After years of treks and route plotting, French and several other volunteers, collectively called the Bay Circuit Alliance, convinced conservation groups and some private landowners to allow pedestrian crossing.

“Very little of the trail is on homeowners. But a lot of it is on what we call private conservation groups,” French explains. “There are many of them and many of them are members of the Bay Circuit Alliance as organizations. But there’s a private corporation, like the largest railroad company. The trail isn’t there yet, that’s one of our projects.”

There are still about 20 miles, out of 200, that are still being negotiated. And now that French has retired, the AMC and Trustees of Reservations are stepping in to create a paid position — someone who will see the trail through to completion, then oversee its maintenance. Because most of it is finished, the Bay Circuit Trail has been mapped with information on which sections allow biking and skiing, and which are strictly foot traffic.

“You’ll see the system which tells you that the Bay Circuit Trail turns left," French says. "It’s the same system that the Appalachian Trail, that you’re familiar with. Rather than reinvent the wheel we’ve adopted their system of directional markers. Do you see that tree over there? That’s our logo and we like to combine the directional markers with the logo.”

The logo is blue and green — hard to miss in the woods this time of year — and spells out Bay Circuit Trail.