Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County reaches East Andover NH.


The Northern Rail Trail reached East Andover on Wednesday, September 12. The resurfaced trail now runs more than 5 miles, from East Andover to Potter Place.


This project was funded by a $30,000 grant from New Hampshire’s Recreational Trails Bureau, a program of the Department of Resources and Economic Development.


Peter Crowell of New London, a board member of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC), organized and oversaw the work. He also contributed the equipment (a grader and vibrating roller) and much of the labor.


Ed Larpenter and Fred Burpee did a great job, working conscientiously for long hours, to grade the rock ballast of the former Boston and Maine rail bed and lay down and compact 127 loads of hard pack bought from R. D. Edmonds in Franklin. Rosie Best of Andover served as greeter, traffic cop and monitor of the truckload deliveries through three days of fair and foul weather.


This new section of rail trail starts at the Volunteer Fire Department in East Andover and joins the previously refinished surface at Switch Road, paralleling Route 11, runs next to Blackwater Park and behind the Andover Elementary Middle School, and ends at the restored Potter Place railway station, now a museum run by the Andover Historical Society. It connects the population clusters of Andover as the trains used to.


The completion of this new segment of rail trail in East Andover also initiates a pioneer partnership between FNRT-MC and the Highland Lake Inn, which overlooks the rail trail. The Highland Lake Inn will serve as the rail trail’s first Welcome Center, providing parking, restrooms and trail information and selling refreshments. FNRT-MC is working to spread the Welcome Center model to other B&Bs and inns along or near the rail trail in the future to provide amenities to rail trail users.


FNRT-MC board member Charles Martin reported, “Immediately after the last load was delivered, two guys from Concord showed up on mountain bikes. So they were the first two to experience our trail end-to-end. When I rode my bike back home, via the rail trail, I came across two pairs of walkers. Amazing how quickly people discover and use the rail trail!”


Organized in 2004, the FNRT-MC aims to continue the conversion of rail bed into a four-season rail trail from Danbury to the Boscawen-Concord line. In 2006 it received a $206,000 Transportation Enhancement grant to take the rail trail from Potter Place to Danbury, where it will connect with the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County. Ultimately the Grafton and Merrimack County sections together will total 59 miles of continuous rail trail, the longest rail trail in New Hampshire, and will allow people to ride their bikes or hike from the Connecticut River Valley to the Lakes Region.