Londonderry Rail Trail hits milestone
LONDONDERRY — For the many supporters of the Londonderry Rail Trail project, the first mile began with some very eager steps Saturday afternoon.
The trail's first completed mile opened with much fanfare during a ceremony held in the North Elementary School parking lot, which is the location of the Sanborn Road trailhead.
Dozens of residents, along with various state and town officials, braved the chilly temperatures to walk the maiden mile, with others perched on bicycles or walking their family dogs.
The first mile of completed rail trail, which was finished in mid-November, runs from Symmes Drive at Exit 5 to Sanborn Road.
Work on the project, which was supervised by Londonderry Public Works and Engineering Director Janusz Czyzowski, was done by the Daniel T. Ladd Construction Company of Loudon.
Londonderry Trailways president Bob Saur thanked local supporters for helping to make the project a reality.
"For me, this just goes to show what can be accomplished when everyone comes together," Saur said, noting that the trail wouldn't have made it past the planning stages without the strong support of the Londonderry Town Council and local voters. Voters at the March Town Meeting approved a warrant article allowing the Londonderry Trailways to privately raise funds for the project and, late last summer, the Trailways group received a $100,000 state Department of Resources and Economic Development Parks and Recreation grant to assist with trail construction.
State Senator Sharon Carson credited the townspeople in moving forward despite various obstacles that arose along the way.
"There's a lot of 'can-do' spirit in this town and in this case, citizens really rolled up their sleeves and got to work," Carson said, noting that she's hoping to work closely with state officials to ensure the project moves along more smoothly in the future as Trailways officials strive to complete more miles in the coming years,
Chris Gamache, chief of the state Bureau of Trails, called the initial mile "an amazing accomplishment."
"This just goes to show how important trails are to this community," he said.
According to John Daley, a local physician who serves on the Londonderry Trailways' Board of Directors, the transformed site of the former Manchester-Lawrence railway corridor represents various milestones for the community at large.
"Two centuries ago, when Londonderry was still a very small town, the arrival of the railroad was the 19th century equivalent of a super-highway being built," Daley said.
Once completed, Londonderry's 6.3-mile stretch of rail beds will connect Derry's eight-mile trail to Manchester.
Daley, who attended the opening ceremony with his entire extended family, said he's supported the project from its inception, having hosted plenty of wine-tastings and other fundraisers at his home.
"Trails enhance a community," Daley said, adding that his own children learned to ride their bikes on the nearby Windham Rail Trail.
"Now Londonderry has a safe, paved place for families to stay active and have fun together," he said.
Later, project supporters paused to honor the memory of Londonderry resident Mark Baldwin.
Baldwin, an avid trail runner, died unexpectedly this past February at age 53. Knowing his love of the outdoors, his surviving relatives suggested giving memorial donations to Londonderry Trailways to honor his memory.
Baldwin's loved ones donated $7,000 to the cause in the weeks to follow.
Trailways member Bob Rimol said the organization's next goal is to pave an additional ¾-mile of trail in the coming year, stretching the Rail Trail further toward the Derry town line by the Route 28 Irving Gas station.
Further fundraising is currently underway to complete the third phase of trail, ending by Seasons Lane.
Rimol said he hopes to see that segment completed sometime in 2015.
For information, visit www.londonderrytrailways.org.