Londonderry Trailways approved for federal grant
It's been an exciting month for the local grassroots group, with the project now approved for a $20,000 federal grant, Trailways member Bob Rimol said this week.
Londonderry Trailways appeared before the Town Council in late June, when the board gave its unanimous blessing to allow the group to pursue various funding options in hopes of turning a 6.4-mile segment of abandoned railway into a paved area for biking, hiking and walking.
At the beginning of August, state and town officials signed an agreement giving the Trailways authority over the site, and within the past week, the group's grant application passed.
Rimol said the latest development in funding would allow the group to complete about half of the Londonderry segment as part of a multi-town effort to use the state's inactive railway system for recreational purposes.
The grant is part of the federal Alternative Transportation initiative's Recreational Trails program, with the money coming from federal gas tax funds.
Rimol said the Trailways group needs to raise $5,000 as part of the 80/20 grant program. Since the group receives no state or municipal funding, it relies on grants and donations to keep things rolling.
“We're definitely still in the fundraising process, but we expect things to go pretty well,” said Rimol. “Right now, budgets are tight but people love to have a safe place to walk or to ride their bicycles. It's a beautiful, scenic path and will be a great place for families, for seniors or the handicapped.”
Over the past several months, a preliminary engineering study, funded through $10,000 in private and corporate donations, has been nearly completed.
Once that happens, the Trailways can begin the lengthy process of clearing the overgrown trail segment. Depending on what the weather brings, that could happen as early as late fall or shortly after the snow melts in 2013.
Volunteers have already removed a total of 500 rubber tires from the trail and filled two 30-cubic yard Dumpsters with refuse.
“We'll be grading those three-miles of trails; we'll be trimming the trees,” said Rimol. “The goal is to get as much done as possible so in another two years, all that will be left for us to do is pave.”
The three-mile segment stretches from Sanborn Road, near North Elementary School, down Route 28, near Seasons Lane.
“This is a great starting point for us,” Rimol added. “It's centrally located and not far from the Exit 5 Park and Ride.”
Further down the road, the group's goal is to complete the remainder of Londonderry's Rail Trail, which winds from the area near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport all the way to the site of the future Woodmont Commons, ending near the Derry town line by Interstate 93.
The old rail trail winding through northern Londonderry was once part of the former Manchester-Lawrence railway corridor, dating from 1848. Though passenger railway service ended in 1960, freight services continued through the early 1980s, though large sections of railway beds have been abandoned since the mid-1970s.
More recently, sections of the old railway have been converted to paved pedestrian and bicycle paths in several neighboring communities, with the town of Windham beginning the process in 2003.
In spring 2010, members of the Rail Trail Alliance were approved for a $1.2 million grant covering the communities of Salem, Windham and Derry. Meetings with Manchester-Boston Regional Airport officials and the Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission soon followed.
Windham has since completed most of its trail segment, with only a half-mile remaining. Salem recently signed a Rail Trail agreement with the state, and members of the Iron Horse Preservation Society have agreed to remove all of the railroad tracks free of charge, Rimol said.
For more information, visit www.londonderrytrails.org.
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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.
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