Concord has a new trail ranger ready to welcome you outdoors

  • Ranger Mel, the new part-time ranger for Concord trails. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

Monitor staff
Published: 11/2/2021 4:07:14 PM

Meet Melina Caron, the city of Concord’s first official trail ranger.

The City of Concord recently adopted its Trail Master Plan, which identifies and prioritizes initiatives for more than 80 miles of public and privately-held trails in and around the city. Part of that plan was hiring a Trails and Open Space Ranger, who serves as kind of an ambassador to the city’s green spaces.

“I love visiting the trails,” said Caron. “I’m super stoked about it.”

Caron, a Concord resident and student of Environmental Science at NHTI, currently works part time for the city, overseeing its trail network and expanding the city’s public outreach.

“Proper use is the main focus,” said Caron. “I’ll be trying to get people involved [with the trails].”

The trail system has seen a heightened demand during the pandemic and is expected to be further expanded.

Work on the city’s trail master plan began in 2019, creating a vision for the future of Concord trails. The city wants to enhance and maintain current trails, potentially identify new connections to existing trails, and comprehensively detail how city-owned and private trails fit together.

“When a sidewalk is proposed with the sidewalk master plan, the planning board can say ‘build a sidewalk,’” said Beth Fenstermacher, assistant city planner for Concord. “Hopefully with this document, when a project comes before us and they’re trying to put a trail connection there, the planning board has this document that says ‘here, build this trail.’”

Though the plan does not authorize new trails, it does list potential future connections, such as connecting the Broken Ground to Oak Hill trails, or extending the West End Farm Trail to connect to both the Bow and Hopkinton networks. The plan outlines trails regulated and owned by the Conservation Commission, but also includes out-of-trust trails such as those owned by the Audubon, private land owners as well as the Merrimack River Greenway.

“I remember the day where I had this epiphany, like ‘wow, this is something really huge we have,’” said Craig Tufts, a member of the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission. “It’s like a major park system.”

A public forum was held in January 2020 to solicit input and to develop a shared community vision for trail development. Along with this forum, a survey was created with over 500 responses.

The survey found that nearly 95% of responses supported the City of Concord developing more trails and systems.

“Concord is extremely lucky to have access to so much open space,” wrote one respondent. “I don’t know any other cities that can advertise such a vast network.”

Another trail user, Ed Lombardi, noted the immense health benefits in expanding the system among Concord residents.

“I think the city of Concord has an incredible opportunity to not only get more people active in the outdoors (especially children), but also the economic benefit of drawing in users from outside the area,” wrote Lombardi.

One of the main goals for Caron in her new role is to promote “Leave No Trace” within the trail system, as the city attempts to reduce dog waste and dumping at trail heads. “Leave No Trace” is a philosophy in which trail users use to minimize trail impact.

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