NASHUA — Organizers are hoping to eventually light the entire Heritage Rail Trail, starting with a six-block section in one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods.
Aspiring for a positive change and a brighter ambiance, a portion of the rail trail located within the downtown Tree Streets community is about to be revitalized.
“We want people to be able to travel on the Heritage Rail Trail at all times of the day and night,” said Mike Lachance, CEO of the Greater Nashua YMCA. “Part of our efforts as an organization are to increase healthy eating and active living, and we believe the rail trail is an instrumental part of that.”
The local YMCA recently applied for a grant to help pay for some of the lighting improvements along the trail, and last week the Citizens Bank Foundation announced that Nashua and Laconia have been awarded a total of $70,000 in grants to support projects like the rail trail revitalization.
“Citizens’ Growing Communities initiative was established to help support and promote neighborhood-based programs that have a significant impact on communities across New Hampshire,” said Joe Carelli, president of Citizens Bank. “Strengthening the health and economic vitality of our local communities is a priority at Citizens. We believe our grants will help enhance the character and overall well-being of these neighborhoods, support small businesses and spur additional investments in these communities.”
The Heritage Rail Trail is a pedestrian corridor used by city residents to access employment and services, and by visitors for recreation.
The grant, according to Carelli, will support improvements to the trail, expand the community garden program, and offer outreach and educational programs.
In a statement, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said the collaboration among the city, Greater Nashua YMCA, Nashua Police Athletic League and Citizens Bank will enhance the safety and usability of the rail trail throughout the downtown area.
The grant, along with funding from the city, will be used to install solar lights throughout several blocks, expand the community garden in the area, create two murals and install new stone markers along the trail.
Remaining funds will be used for community cleanup efforts, graffiti removal and neighborhood engagement activities, according to a release.
“The city has committed to light up four city blocks along the rail trail, and the grant will help light another two blocks,” Lachance said last week, adding he is excited about the solar-powered lights that he hopes will someday stretch throughout the entire length of the pedestrian trail.
In Laconia, some of the grant money will be used to support a facade improvement fund for the Beacon Street loop in the central downtown business district. The initiative, according to a release, will encourage area property owners and businesses to make investments that beautify the downtown area, with the ultimate goal of decreasing vacancy rates and increasing consumer traffic.
With this latest round of funding, Citizens has awarded a total of $155,000 in grants to New Hampshire communities as part of its Growing Communities program.