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Nov 23, 2014







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The Hub

Manchester is part of the puzzle in New Hampshire rail trails, but much of the group’s work in recent years has been in the paths moving east-west, not north-south like the GSRT. The Piscataquog trail (1.7 miles paved, 2.1 miles total) starts at the East Bank of the Merrimack River at the Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge, where it intersects with the Heritage trail. It continues over the bridge, passes by baseball fields, over a couple of small roads and by West Side Arena to Electric Street. Parking is available on the east side of the Merrimack River Bridge and on the other side of the trail, at West Side Arena. Riders cross a couple of roads, but the best part of the trail is on the Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge, over rushing waters and a busy Interstate 293. The final project in finishing the trail involves creating a bridge over the Piscataquog River, which will be built soon — all that’s left is the construction. 
“We’re extremely gratified to have been able to raise the money in such a short amount of time,” Williams said. This bridge will connect the Piscataquog Trail with the 5.5-mile-long Goffstown Rail Trail.
 
The Rockingham Trail (4.1 miles) starts at Willow Street and goes to Lake Massabesic. This trail continues all the way to the seacoast for 25 more miles, according to Martin’s book, past lakes, ponds and wetlands. It is currently unpaved, but Manchester Moves plans for it to be paved from the Manchester city center to Auburn.
 
Manchester Moves’ master plan, according to its website (manchestermoves.org), is for the Rockingham Trail, the South Manchester Trail and the Heritage Trail to eventually connect in downtown Manchester, the envisioned “Hub.”




Happy Trails
An update on Southern NH's bike paths

05/03/12
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



It’s not even the weekend, yet the Windham Rail Trail parking lot is full. Along the route, a woman in pink peruses the trail on a bicycle. Several dog walkers line the trail, and two photographers are snapping shots: of the wetlands, the side waterfalls, the green just starting to coat the trees and the ground. A young girl blades on by, and a 3-year-old boy who’s just learned to bike strains his ears to listen to the woodpecker in the trees.
 
The crowd is similar on Manchester’s South Manchester trail, Piscataquog trail, Heritage trail and Riverwalk trail. Friends take a cool evening walk along the river’s edge, teenagers are riding their bikes home, and an old couple walks over the pedestrian bridge towering over the rushing cold waters of the Merrimack River. They use these trails often, they say. Usually every day, yes. They can’t wait for more to come.
There’s no doubt about it: The people like the rail trails.
 
“They’re good for the community — for walkers, bicyclists, and especially for young children. It’s in town, but it’s scenic and in nature,” said Wally Ramsden, a Windham resident. “It’s an especially great place for kids, because there aren’t that many safe places for them to ride their bikes around,” he said.
 
For bike riders, these paved trails are a haven. There’s no traffic, no hand signals needed, no immediate danger, and the scenery certainly beats the lights, cars and buildings that follow Route 28 or downtown Manchester.
 
“A lot of people want places to ride, and they have a hard time finding safe places to ride a bike ..., or places to teach their kid to ride a bike,” said Craig Tufts, a transportation and GIS planner with the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission. “Most people, when they do find a trail, they’re thrilled. They get to the end, and they want to know when it will be continued.”
 
Connections

Various trails along the line from Salem to Lebanon will be more than “continued” — the plan is to connect them.
 
While many know about the work being done on trails within New Hampshire, not as many know about the idea to connect these several links into one long path from Salem to Lebanon, a 110-mile ride, walk or run. 
 
The idea came about a few years ago at a New Hampshire Rail Trail Coalition (NHRTC) meeting. Dick Lemieux, current president of the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, proposed an idea to connect trails formed from two abandoned rail lines: one from the Manchester and Lawrence railroad and one from the Northern Rail. The idea sparked a dream among enthusiasts all over New Hampshire. 
 
The project, when finished, would be coined the Granite State Rail Trail.
 
Granite State Rail Trail

The project begins on the New Hampshire border, continuing from Methuen into Salem along what used to be the Manchester and Lawrence Railroad, which was built in 1848, and labeled an “abandoned” line from Londonderry to Manchester in 2000. 
 
Charles Martin’s 2006 book New Hampshire Rail Trails details the various rail trails New Hampshire has to offer, north to south, east to west, with descriptions of the scenery and trail quality of each pathway. He ranks the trails (one to five stars) according to scenery and condition — hard-packed dirt or pavement vs. the unpassable trails that need maintenance.
 
In just six years, some of Martin’s book is already outdated because of the progress made by rail trail groups along the line, such as the paving of the Derry line, work done in Manchester, and improvements in parts of the Northern Rail Trail. In Martin’s book, the idea of the Granite State Rail Trail seemed more a dream than a reality. Today, you can see detailed plans of what’s happening next online or find out by contacting one of the associated trail organizations.
 
Then and now

Riders and walkers along these trails don’t just get taste of scenery and exercise. In many areas, Martin said, they get a slice of American history.
 
“For me, the best part about preserving these trails is also in preserving the history,” Martin said. There are many spots on the trails that indicate important historical moments in New Hampshire, as he notes in his book, such as the expertly cut granite blocks used for bridge supports, rock cuts and fills for viaducts built more than 100 years ago, and many of the old railroad stations still stand, such as those in Derry, Windham, Salem and East Andover (Potter Place).
 
These railroads connected New Hampshire to industrialization, Martin said, and they played such an important role in New Hampshire’s development. The line through Salem brought Boston fans to the trotting races at Rockingham Park, and brought people to work in Manchester and Concord. 
Of course, the trail could be a great means of transportation today.
 
The importance of the corridor was pointed out in a 2003 state report, the Salem to Concord Bikeway Feasibility study. As part of the Interstate 93 widening project, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation proposed construction of a bike path parallel to the highway. While the rail corridor does not run completely parallel to I-93, it was decided that it made sense to make use of these abandoned trails.
 
And so the NHRTC has been hard at work, securing grants, raising money and drawing support from residents. 
 
Let the ride begin.
 
Salem (+5 miles)

START: At the Massachusetts/New Hampshire line (behind IHOP, right before Hampshire Road)
 
END: At the five-point intersection by Cycles Etc. of Salem
 
Parking: The trail is not in condition to be used right now.
 
The beginning of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor will be at the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. The trail will run parallel to Route 28. As the only segment of the proposed Granite State Rail Trail that still has the rail intact, it requires a bit more work than some of its neighbors, but Salem has managed to snag some help from a nonprofit called the Iron Horse Preservation Society. The group converts abandoned railroad tracks into usable recreation trails at no cost — which is a very rare thing, said Dave Topham, a member of the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire and the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor Committee. Right now the organization is building the trail in Methuen and it will continue through Salem, pulling up approximately 2.5 miles of rail and creating 2.5 miles of the corridor (not necessarily in the exact area at which the rails are pulled) with T-base, or recycled asphalt, Topham said. The start date for the work is not set, but it is expected that construction on the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor will start near the end of this spring, as soon as the Methuen trail is finished.
 
Organizations like the Iron Horse Preservation Society are very rare in the rail trail construction universe. This project will cost Salem nothing, as the organization is able to use the rails pried from the ground as profit.
 
The Salem segment on the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor is not usable at the moment, but the folks in Salem have a great vision of what the corridor will bring.
 
It will offer alternative transportation, for one thing — a way to get to the shopping centers without sitting in 20 minutes of traffic for a short drive. It will also offer a means to get some exercise — frankly, biking around some sections of Salem is scary and unsafe. Topham also loves the history that restoring the old rail pathways brings to the surface.
 
The corridor will run by the Salem Depot Train Station, a halfway point between Boston and Concord. The station, which has been in the town since the mid-1800s, has been transformed into a quaint depot station by Stonehill Builders. The restored building also houses a small museum of Salem and railroad history. The Salem Chamber of Commerce also resides in the old railroad station. The building will provide a rest room and water for rail trail users.
 
The trail will follow Route 28 to the Salem/Windham line near the five-point intersection (near Cycles Etc. on Range Road).
 
Windham (+4.1 miles)

START: At the five-point intersection by Cycles Etc. of Salem
 
END: Just past the Windham Depot on the Windham/Derry line
 
Parking: Take Depot Road, follow for two miles, Depot Station is on the left.
 
The Windham rail trail begins on the other side of the bridge. This is one of the most-used trails in New Hampshire, in part for its beautiful scenery. 
 
The best parking spot is by the Windham Depot, which is typically full on weekends but is right in the middle of the seven-mile paved stretch between Derry and Windham. The trail cuts through beautiful wetlands and rocky waterfalls, and remnants of old farm life are evident through old stone walls that can be seen from the trail. Of the 4.1 miles of trail, the 3.6 miles of paved surface begins about a quarter-mile past the Route 111 Bridge going north.
 
The trail work is led by a group of Windham residents who take great pride in the trail. In addition to its clean paved road, cutting through wetlands, over bridges and along seasonal waterfalls (in the winter, it’s a wall of ice), the organization has put work into preserving the original depot station and acquiring a blue, old-fashioned former B&M caboose, which both line the rail trail along Depot Road. NTRTC Board Vice President and Windham Rail Trail Alliance President Mark Samsel is more than glad to let visitors inside the caboose to see the little piece of New Hampshire railroad history.
 
The Windham Rail Trail Alliance was one of the leaders in the Granite State project, accomplishing the base coat of pavement lining the trails in 2006.
 
“Our mission was to be the first, to set the bar, and hope that other surrounding towns would jump on to what was going on,” Samsel said. “And it has — it’s caught on like wildfire,” Samsel said.
 
This section of trail was the first to become paved, and the Windham trail boasts eight Eagle Scout projects along the road, from stone benches to the wooden fences, Samsel said. 
 
In its connection with Derry, it is the part of the longest paved abandoned rail corridor in New Hampshire. Runners may want to take on the organization’s fifth annual Windham Flat ‘n Fast 5k, which will be held on Sunday, June 12.
 
Derry (+3.6 miles)

START: In the middle of the Windham/Derry rail trail connection. Park at the Derry Depot.
 
FINISH: Hood Park.
 
Perhaps some of the most significant construction in New Hampshire rail trails within the past year has been in Derry. From the south, Windham’s trail seamlessly transfers into the newly paved Derry trail. Joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and walkers can enjoy a scenic route, starting from the Windham trail or at the Derry Depot entrance (1 E. Broadway, Derry) on the other end.
 
In many of the trails, it’s been difficult to get the project going due to inadequate funds and due to the land’s being owned by multiple and/or private owners. Derry was lucky in this case; the town owned nearly the entire segment and thus was able to get the project going quickly.
 
Derry resident Erich Whitney was inspired to lead the charge in Derry when he attended the Windham Rail Trail opening in 2006. “I went to the grand opening, and I asked when the trail would be paved in Derry,” Whitney said. He laughs with the memory — he had just unknowingly volunteered himself as the project leader. He recruited help from Samsel in getting the project moving, pitching the idea to the town and forming the Derry Rail Trail Alliance. 
 
Residents were excited to contribute. Volunteers helped in trail clean-ups and in raising money.
 
“This is a really small grassroots thing, but it turned out to be the right thing at the time,” said Whitney, who is the Derry Rail Trail Alliance president. The town responded and were a huge help — Derry Public Works contracted the work and managed the building on the trail, he said.
 
Construction began in October, and the project was finished before Thanksgiving. In Derry, as is true with nearly all rail trails, the bulk of the work is not in the construction: it’s in the design, going through towns, through environmentalists, through landowners and businesses, Whitney said.
 
The ribbon-cutting ceremony is technically on Saturday, June 2, which is National Rail Trail Day; however, folks all over have not been hesitant in utilizing these trails. 
 
“Our vice president, Mark Connors, rode the trail out and back, Derry to Windham, on March 18. He counted a total of 530 people in the trail,” Whitney said. “We get so many people who want to use it. People were riding on it before construction was even finished.”
 
The trail continues north after the Derry Depot station, moving through Hood Park and crossing by Hood Pond, but the Derry trail is not completed just yet. It needs to connect with Londonderry.
 
Londonderry (+6 miles)

START: Near the Exit 5 Park & Ride
 
END: Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Harvey Road
 
Parking: Exit 5 Park & Ride
 
The six-mile Londonderry section of the Granite State Rail Trail will run from the Derry/Londonderry town line to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, following the route of the old Manchester & Lawrence Railroad.
 
The Derry/Londonderry connection will be difficult because of land ownership between the two. Right now, about one mile of land is owned by a private developer, and so there is a gap between the Derry and Londonderry trails.
 
The trail will be built in seven segments: the Derry town line to Rockingham Road (0.6 miles); Rockingham Road to Independence Drive (1.4 miles); Independence Drive to I-93 (0.5 miles); I-93 to Sanborn Road (1.3 miles); Sanborn Road to Mammoth Road (0.2 miles); Mammoth Road to Harvey Road (1.1 miles); and Harvey Road to the Manchester city line at the airport.
 
The first section that is to be paved will likely be from North School (19 Sanborn Road, Londonderry) south to the Derry line. This first section can be accessed by the Exit 5 Park and Ride.
 
Londonderry’s trail has been dormant for the past several years, said Dean Williams, president of the Manchester Moves rail trail group, but the trail has recently gotten board approval. Londonderry’s trail features a few more stumbling blocks than its southern New Hampshire neighbors.
 
Nothing is paved just yet, but a good portion is walkable, said Londonderry Trailways representative Bob Rimol. The trail is also, however, a bit bumpy for serious riding. Most of the abandoned rail corridor land in Londonderry is owned by the State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and right now the organization is working on getting a preliminary engineering study for further development.
 
This section is much younger than its neighbors, and thus far most of the work has been in clearing out the trail. Charles Martin noted in his book that this was a beautiful trail but full of trash in 2006. Since then, the group has put forth effort to make it more usable.
 
“We’ve really cleaned up certain sections to make it more walkable, clearing out the brush, picking up trash, but we’re still in the early stages of this,” Rimol said.
 
“We have to cross Route 28 in two locations, and it’s pretty complicated, so we’re going to be building in trail segments. It will probably be about a 10-year process to complete the whole thing because of the obstacles,” Rimol said.
 
But he isn’t discouraged by the challenges ahead. “The more trail work that gets done, the more pressure it puts on other people to get it done, and that’s exciting,” he said. “We have a very dedicated group of people working on the trail,” he said. 
 
The final challenge would seem to be the largest and most difficult, but it’s not. The Londonderry Rail trail ends at the Manchester Airport, at which it will eventually loop around and connect in with the South Manchester trail.
 
Manchester (9 miles)

Includes South Manchester Trail and the Heritage Trail
 
South Manchester Trail (4.1 miles total; 0.9 miles paved)

START: Perimeter Road
 
FINISH: Granite Street (paved: Gold Street to Beech Street)
 
Parking: Shaw’s Supermarket parking lot
 
Heritage Trail (The RiverWalk) (6.1 miles; 1 mile paved)

START: Sundial Avenue
 
FINISH: Southern New Hampshire University
 
(It is uncertain exactly where on the Heritage trail the Granite State Rail Trail will run. It will likely run on the Riverwalk section, running north from the Millyard.)
 
Manchester’s airport seems as though it would be an obstacle for the trail, but the opposite is true. The airport is very willing not only to go along with Manchester Moves but even to help out, as the trail would provide another form of transportation for travelers. 
 
Looping around the airport into Manchester, the South Manchester Trail starts at Sundial Ave. This section is unpaved until Gold Street. The South Manchester Rail Trail is the most advanced portion of the Granite State Rail Trail in the city of Manchester, said Greg Bakos, a board member of Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire and a civil engineering consultant. The paved section is a simple pathway, passing through a patch of green, running by Nutt Pond and ending at South Beech Street. This section links to Nutts Pond/Precourt Park recreational area, and there are other access points from local neighborhood side streets.
 
Parts of the Heritage trail will also likely be part of the Granite State rail trail, moving north from the Millyard, however, where exactly it will connect is uncertain at the moment. 
 
Manchester Moves has made fantastic progress over the past couple of years in extending trails in Manchester, but of course, Manchester is difficult because the city is so much more congested than the rail trail corridors through other parts of southern New Hampshire.
 
The biggest obstacles on the Granite State Rail Trail occur north of Manchester. Part of the Granite State Rail Trail overlaps with active rail: Pan Am Railways runs through Manchester and Concord. Members of the NHRTC are hoping to run the trail alongside the tracks, which would be deemed “rail with trail.”
 
This particular section is troublesome to the NHRTC because of the liability issues that go with “rail with trail.” It’s feared that running these trails parallel to the track will cause more accidents.
 
But rail trail activists argue that’s not so — research on trails that share their right of way (in Massachusetts and Maine, for instance) shows that this shouldn’t be an issue. States that do have “rail with trail” show no more casualty instances than non-trail segments of railroad, said Williams of Manchester Moves.
 
Members of the NHRTC across the board agree that this section is the toughest part to deal with, but they still share the vision of sharing the trail with the railroad for a number of reasons. There’s only one land owner (the railroad), which can make it easier to get permission to develop, and the routes that go along the rail trails are some of the most beautiful.
 
“When the trains came to New England, they basically took the most scenic routes,” Dick Lemieux said. “If we do it along the railroad, it will be along the river,” he said. And, with rail trails, there is a tendency to want to stick with the rail.
 
Pembroke (+3 miles) and Hooksett (+about 6 miles)

The proposed rail with trail would run nine miles, up through the Pembroke (3 miles) and Suncook Rail trails (6 miles), which are yet to be cleared and paved but which are attracting trail groups to connect their segments, Tufts said.
 
Concord (+14 miles, approx.)

START/END locations to be determined.
 
Dick Lemieux jokes with his rail trail friends in other towns that they have it easy: “At least they have a clearing, and they know where their trail will go!” he laughs. “We’re going to have to make our own, through the fields and the city,” he said.
 
Indeed, the challenges in Concord lie in the fact that the Manchester & Lawrence line went from Lawrence to Manchester. Another train runs from Manchester to Concord, but, again, that railroad (Pan Am Railways) remains active.
 
“Part of our challenge is that there are so many opportunities but no obvious route,” said Chris Kane, a member of the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, which recently received its 501(c)(3) designation.
 
The group has begun to clear out the southern section of the proposed trail along the Merrimack cornfields by the post office.
 
There’s already a route along the Merrimack River for a paved pathway, and the Friends of the Merrimack Greenway have already formed an additional walking path beside the proposed trail, right next to the river. This particular trail is going to be used in a triathlon this summer, on July 22. But there are still more hurdles along the way.
 
They have to go through wetlands, which leads to some engineering challenges. There could be some big problems (administrative, getting the ability to use the land) and some environmental and engineering challenges, which is why the designed trail space is more of a “most likely” plan.
 
But this part of the proposed trail is beautiful, lining a large cornfield and in full view of the Merrimack River. The group cut a walking path through the brush lining the river, which has a great view of the state capitol. They hope to gather more support at the Bicycle Swap, hosted by the Central New Hampshire Bicycling Coalition on May 12 and May 13 (www.cnhbc.org/what-we-do/bike-swap).
 
Concord clearly has a lot to work to do, but the town is involved and excited for the rail trails to be built. 
 
“The greenway trail is an ambitious project that will put Concord on the map for tourism and active recreation,” said Concord Mayor Jim Bouley of the project.
 
The trail will move north to eventually connect with Boscawen.
 
Northern Rail Trail 
(+about 60 miles)

START: Boscawen (start of usable trail: public lot at Webster Lake, Franklin, Route 11/Webster Avenue intersection) 
 
END: Spencer Street, Lebanon
 
This trail is the final piece of the puzzle. It’s already the longest continuous rail trail in the state at 48 usable miles, but unlike the rest of the trails along the old Manchester & Lawrence line, there are no plans for paving. While some may use it as a means for transportation, it’s intended for recreation.
 
The Northern Rail Trail runs along what was once the Northern Railroad, from Concord to White River Junction. Built from 1845 to 1847, the rail was abandoned in 1992, and it’s a good thing for rail trail users — this trail presents some of the most beautiful scenery in New Hampshire.
 
The start of the track is in Boscawen (where Concord will eventually meet with it) and runs to East Andover’s Maple Street (19 miles), through Potter Place in Andover (5.7 miles), to the Grafton Danbury border (11 miles) all the way to Spencer Street in Lebanon (25 miles), for a total of about 60 miles, according to Martin’s book.
 
The trail passes lakes and mountains (Cardigan and Kearsarge, to name two) and crosses through some of New Hampshire’s best scenery. In some areas, such as Lebanon, the trail will be crowded on a weekend, but in general this segment is more secluded than the rest of the line. 
 
Of these 60 miles, 48 are usable (Lebanon to Franklin), making it the longest rail in New Hampshire, spanning two counties. New Hampshire State Parks (nhstateparks.org) suggests hikers, bikers and walkers use Lebanon’s Spencer Street, Andover’s Route 4 Potter Place, East Andover’s Highland Lake Inn Trailhead, Franklin’s Webster Lake parking lot and the Boscawen’s Gerrish Depot (off Route 3) parking areas.
 
Along the entire trail, the rails and ties have all been removed, and what’s left is the ballast: the crushed stone that provided an anchor for the railroad ties, holding them in place — good for railroads, but not so much for biking or walking on. 
 
“The problem is, once you remove the ties, the stones make it impassable during three seasons of the year,” said Alex Bernard of the Northern Rail Trail group. The only time these trails lined with crushed stone actually get used are during the winter time, when they’re covered in snow. 
 
And so, for the past 13 years, Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, Grafton County and Merrimack County, have been hard at work clearing the trails of brush, obstructions and ballast and putting down a hard packed surface. 
 
“It provides a wonderful opportunity for people to walk and bike,” Bernard said. “In all of the towns we go through, there are no sidewalks! When people want to go for a walk, take their kids out, their other choice is to walk along the side of a road,” he said. “We provide a linear park that walkers, runners, bike riders and horse riders can enjoy,” he said. 
 
All together: 110.7 miles
 
The biggest obstacle

Money is really the biggest factor in finishing this state-long trail, Bernard said. There have been fewer grants accessible to rail trail preservation this year, so many trail groups have had to be creative in raising money. It’s cost about $14,500 per mile to complete a section of the Northern Rail trail, and they’re not even paving. It’s far more expensive in the city and in the “rail with trail” segments. The WOW (Winnisquam, Opechee, Winnipesaukee) trail will be nine miles long, spanning from Belmont to Meredith, and in the end, the total cost will be nearly $10 million. Much of the money comes from individual and corporate support, as in recent years there are fewer grants available for both recreation and transportation. Estimation of completing all four trail links in Manchester is nearly $24 million, according to an engineering study (referenced through a Union Leader article).
 
However, converting tracks into trails is good for the economy.
 
Trail neighbors may not realize it at first, though. Every so often, there are the folks who want nothing to do with a paved walk or bike path running by their property.
 
“We call them ‘nimbys,’” said Topham. “Not in my backyard.” It’s a national phenomenon: at the beginning of the conversion process, some people who live near a trail want nothing to do with it. They’re afraid that a nice, paved pathway will bring in hooligans and riffraff. And so they request fencing to be put up between the trails and their homes.
 
“But then, when they see how great the trails are, they want it taken down!” Topham said.
 
Not only are they more convenient for folks who live nearby, but the trails make the property value of nearby houses go up. They also can bring in tourism dollars. 
 
Being close to a rail trail is one of the top requests when people are looking to buy homes or looking at jobs within a city. 
 
“It’s what people want their homes to look like,” Tufts said. They like having trails — places to walk, bike or commute in a more “green” way. These are things that spur economic development, making people want to live in or visit an area.
 
An economic study was prepared by the Belknap County Economic Development Council in Laconia, analyzing the WOW trail. Based on user counts and surveys of five comparable recreational trails elsewhere in the United States, it’s estimated that 152,000 people will use the WOW trail each year, including 38,000 non-local visitors, generating nearly $1.8 million in new visitor spending each year.
 
Lowell Von Ruden from Friends of the Goffstown Rail Trail is hoping for a similar phenomenon in the development of the bridge over the Piscataquog Trail, which begins on the east side of the Merrimack River (by the Heritage Trail) and crosses over the river. This year, Manchester Moves is building a bridge to connect the Goffstown and Piscataquog trails. This would be great not only for Goffstown residents who want to get into the city, but also for Goffstown businesses near the trail, as the link will surely mean more Manchester riders trekking through the Goffstown trails and looking for ice cream, food or beverages at nearby stores.
 
“In New Hampshire, I think the potential of what rail trails bring is greatly underappreciated. States next to us have embraced it, and they’re making quite a bit of money through their tourism dollars,” said Diane Hanley, president of the NHRTC and leader of the WOW trail organization.
 
Attraction

Not everyone will ride the 110-mile stretch, Martin said, but there’s a possibility that a 110-mile stretch will attract riders from outside the state and even the country. He suggested that people may even come from overseas to travel along these trails because of the beauty and the landscape variety in the state. 
 
“Of all of the trails I’ve ridden on, New Hampshire, by far, is the most diverse,” he said. And he’s been on his fair share of trails.
 
There’s also the matter of providing more choices and places to gather.
 
“There have been a number of studies that show that biking and walking facilities have helped in traffic and transportation,” said Greg Bakos, Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire board member. “There have been studies that show how much trails bring communities together and benefit tourism and economic activity, as well,” he said.
 
The trails bring in the “green” groups, who love the fossil-free transportation; they bring in the people who love the economical value of enhancing rail trails. Compared to building a highway, it’s relatively inexpensive, and there’s no need for a car to use it. People like the health aspects, the idea that these trails promote healthy living. Parents like trails because they are a safe place for kids and families to ride their bikes, away from traffic.
 
“I don’t think you’ll be able to measure the road as one with less traffic, but it will give more options to people who want to have healthier transportation. In order for it to be more used as a transportation alternative, the trails also must to link with other modes of transportation … and it must linke with schools, populated work places, and there will need to be more bike lanes and bike shoulders in general,” Tufts said. 
 
The people who make it happen

While various states have had great success in transforming abandoned rail corridors into usable trails (Portland, Maine; Cape Cod, Mass.; Vermont and Rhode Island, for instance, have all built fantastic trails), New Hampshire is unique in its passionate participants. The project is volunteer-run, grant-run and donation-run, with each segment under the responsibility of town (or segmented) rail trail groups. 
“In New Hampshire, there is a tradition for everything to be done at a local level. Each individual town is working on its own piece, but together, they’ll build one huge trail. I think it’s great that so many local projects will fit into this big picture,” Tufts said. 
 
They’re all volunteers. Some are young, and some have been involved in the rail trail community for some time now. Call one of them up, and he or she will probably send you packets of information, rail trail directions, and tell you more than you ever thought there was to know about converting rail corridors into trails. They all know one another in this community, and they share one vision of seeing this project move forward.
 
To join the ride, visit nhrailtrails.org.

 






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