Half-mile trail purchase will connect North Rail Trail to proposed Merrimack River Greenway Trail. 

  • Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail board of trustees members Bob Holdsworth and Dick Lemieux walk along a segment of newly abandoned railroad that runs through Morrill Farm Dairy fields on Horseshoe Island in Concord on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Rail trail advocates want the state to purchase the six-mile stretch of rail and convert the tracks into a multi-use trail. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 2/22/2022 8:00:36 AM
Modified: 2/22/2022 8:00:11 AM

A small but key piece of completing a continuous rail trail from the Connecticut River through Concord fell into place last week as the Executive Council voted Wednesday to purchase a 0.6-mile section of old railroad tracks in Boscawen.

The new stretch of tracks will be added to the Northern Rail Trail, which already runs 59 miles from Boscawen to Lebanon. To the south, volunteers in Concord are busy raising funds to acquire and develop more miles of track as part of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, which is planned to run from the city line with Pembroke up to Boscawen. 

The Greenway Trail currently runs south along the Merrimack River from Terrill Park to Manchester Street, the first section in a planned 12.7 mile long section of trail.

Dick Lemieux is the president and treasurer on the Greenway Trail’s board of trustees. He said the new state purchase is great for one day connecting the two trails but that day is still far in the future. 

“Theirs will definitely be built before our trail will,” said Lemiuex.  

The next planned section of the Greeway Trail will run 5.8 miles north from behind the Holiday Inn past Horseshoe Pond up to the city line. Construction on that stretch has yet to begin and when it does it will come piece by piece. 

“The first construction project will be about 1.8 miles so it'll go from Sewalls Falls Road up to the city line,” said Lemiuex. That stretch of rail trail is pending grant approval from the Transportation Alternatives Program which is a program run by the Federal Highway Administration. 

“Our project has been put into the 10 year presentation program, which is now being reviewed by the legislature. So that has a four-months long review time,” said Lemiuex. By May or June, he hopes the project will be fundable. “We're close but we're not there yet,” said Lemiuex. 

The northern expansion will connect Concord to the rest of the Northern Rail Trail. Lemiuex is a lifelong cyclist and said that even in its current state the Greenway Trail has attracted between 400-1,000 people a day since its opening. He hopes that number will grow once Concord is able to make the connection in Boscawen. 

“We’re pretty sure that when it's connected, we're gonna see a lot of people go from Concord up to the up to the city line and beyond,” said Lemiuex. “People who are just out to enjoy either on their bikes or walking or pushing strollers or cross country skiing. Paved trails appeal to all kinds of user groups and they're very popular.”

Those wishing to get involved with the trail can to their website merrimackrivergreenwaytrail.org to look at the planned route and sign up for the newsletter. 

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