With recent major donations from the Granite State Wheelmen, the Mascoma Savings Bank, and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County completed a $66,900 matching fund campaign to secure a $334,643 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. The funds were used to construct 8.3 miles of rail trail between Potter Place and the Danbury town garage. This new rail trail connects the existing rail trail in Grafton County with the recently completed 12 mile segment between Potter Place and West Franklin, making this 46 mile trail the longest rail trail in New Hampshire.
The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County was organized
in 2004 for the purpose of building, maintaining, and promoting the use of a
four-season recreational trail on the old Northern Railroad line between Concord and White River Junction. With six consecutive yearly Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants and enthusiastic volunteer support, the FNRT-MC completed 12 miles of rail trail between Potter Place and West Franklin. In 2006, the FNRT-MC was awarded a federal Transportation Enhancement grant to build the 8.3 mile trail segment from Potter Place to Danbury. This grant required 20% matching funds, an effort that was undertaken by the FNRT-MC in 2007 and completed this summer. Other foundations and trusts that provided support to the fundraising with generous grants included: the Davis Foundation, the Stannard and Dorothy Dunn Trust, the Cogswell Benevolent Trust, the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, the Cricket Foundation, the Brundage Foundation, the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, the Weiss Family Fund, the Brown Foundation, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the McIninch Foundation.
With the TE funds secured, construction on the rail trail was done by R.D. Edmunds and Sons of Franklin with supervision by the engineering firm of Vanasse Hargen Brustlen (VHB) of Manchester. The work consists of clearing the existing trail of debris, compacting the large ballast stones, laying a four inch layer of stone dust, then rolling and compacting this layer. With the trail surface work completed, six bridges will have new railings added to comply with federal standards. The new rail trail is 8-10 feet wide and suitable for use by walkers and runners, bikers, horseback riders, and, in the winter, cross country skiers and snowmobilers. Other motorized vehicles such as ATV’s are prohibited by federal law.
The FNRT-MC works closely with local snowmobiling clubs to maintain the rail trail, including trimming limbs, cutting weeds, and repairing bridge decking and railings. During the next few years, they will be building partnerships in Franklin and Boscawen in order to complete the final 11 miles of trail building to just north of the Concord town line. More information about volunteer opportunities and special programs is available at the website www.fnrt.org.