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Winni River Trail moves on to Phase II



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Contractor Jim Parker, Winnipesaukee River Trail Association member Ken Norton, Tilton Selectman Pat Consentino and Northfield Selectman Steve Bluhm break ground for Phase II of the Winni River Trail. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010
TILTON — More than a decade after the Winnipesaukee River Trail Association formed, and five years after Phase I of the Winnipesaukee River Trail was completed, construction for Phase II is underway.

The trail association, along with representatives from Tilton, Northfield and Franklin and a crowd of community members, held a groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday at the site where Phase II will end, on Route 140 between McDonald's and Burger King.

"Really what we're doing is restoring what had been for years and years a footpath that had been used by Native Americans," Ken Norton of the Winnipesaukee River Trail Association said in speaking to the crowd Thursday.

Norton gave a brief rundown of the history behind the trail, noting that until about 40 years ago, the Winnipesaukee River was the sewer. The Winnipesaukee River Basin Project "really opened the doors to the possibility of recreation taking place on the river."

Now people using the trail can catch a glimpse of kayakers or canoers, as the trail runs parallel to the river. Starting from Trestle View Park in Franklin, Phase I runs 3.1 miles to the old train station in Northfield. The multi-use trail is for walkers, runners, bicyclists and horseback riders, and snowmobiles are allowed on some sections of the trail in the winter. It is about eight feet wide and made of finely crushed stone dust, packed down to create a hard surface.

Norton said the WRTA is working collaboratively with the Winnisquam Opechee Winnipesaukee, or WOW Trail. Both are part of a regional trail network that will eventually extend all the way to Meredith.

Norton thanked several people, including Dick and Shirley Maher for granting easements and the Clark Family of Tilton for allowing the trail to be built with the railroad line, which the Clarks own.

Norton said the trail is unique in that it is the first "rail with trail" in the state. Because of that, the project has met with a fair share of challenges, including a state regulation that requires a fence between the trail and the train tracks. Feener said some compromises were made, including the state allowing the fence to be raised several inches off the ground for wildlife to pass through.

Norton said support from town officials and state legislators was essential to the trail's success.

The trail is funded in part by the NH Department of Transportation, which provides money to alternative transportation projects. Norton called the trail the "alternative to Route 3." He said it will alleviate some of the congestion of that main road and encourage more people to visit the area.

"That's our hope is that it will bring people into our downtown communities," Norton said.

Funding for Phase II also comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Norton said the project received in part because it was shovel ready.

The trail association has been responsible for raising matching funds and has completed fundraising for Phase II. They are now working on raising money for Phase IIa to construct a bridge over the river.

"We're constantly doing fundraising," WRTA member Marcia Feener said, adding that the project has been so drawn out because of funding requirements. "Once you get a grant, it takes years before you get the money."

Feener, who is from Northfield, said that since the trail has now moved from Franklin and Northfield to Tilton, the WRTA is looking especially for Tilton residents to get involved and help with planning and fundraising. Norton said the people who are currently part of the association have all been vital to the trail's success.

"For a small group of people, everyone has played a key roll," Norton said.

Anyone interested in joining the Winnipesaukee River Trail Association or donating to Phase IIa can contact association President Carolyn Hurst at 934-5236. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at Health First in Franklin, and everyone is welcome.

Phase I of the Winnipesaukee River Trail is accessible at Central Street in Franklin, Cross Mill Road in Northfield and the old Surrette Battery site in Northfield, across the river from Tilton's Riverfront Park.

Contractor Jim Parker said he was planning to start construction on Phase II Monday morning and expects the project to take no more than three months.

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