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Phase II of Winni River Trail moves toward fall completion

August 25, 2010
TILTON — Work on the Tilton end of the Winnipesaukee River Trail is well underway as J. Parker and Daughters, Inc. of Pittsfield has been busy grading, installing drainage and readying the latest phase of a trail to provide recreational opportunities from Lebanon to Laconia when all portions are completed.

When the groundwork for Phase II of the Winnipesaukee River Trail is complete, a four-inch layer of stone dust will be added to provide a smooth surface for travelers, much like the walking surface in Franklin and Northfield.

Groundbreaking for Phase I occurred in 2004, when a 3.1-mile path was built along the river and railroad tracks from Franklin's Trestle View Park to Hall Memorial Library on Park Street in Northfield. Tilton will soon join on to this existing trail system, adding an additional two miles that will end on Route 140 behind McDonald's restaurant. Belmont is also working on funding for a walking trail through that community, which will connect into Laconia's Winnisquam-Opechee-Winnipesaukee trail, and this fall work will begin on connecting the Franklin end with the rail trail running from Lebanon to Danbury.

"The river views are quite nice along this new portion of the trail, a lot better than we even anticipated," said Winnipesaukee River Trail Association President Carolyn Hurst.

Northfield recently obtained $199,000 in funds through the Department of transportation to build a bridge over the river where the Tilton portion will join Northfield. The bridge will cross at Granite Street and signs will direct people along Elm Street to Hall Library where they will pick up the river trail again. Hurst said engineering for the bridge is slated to begin in October, with anticipated completion sometime late in 2011.

"For now the trail will end on Main Street in Tilton and people will have to walk (across Cannon Bridge) from downtown Tilton to Northfield. But, once the bridge is complete, that portion of the trail will be relocated to cross the new walking bridge," said Hurst.

Similar to the existing the trail, Hurst said the association hopes to add historic markers along the Phase II portion of the WRT. The river was a vital component of the early economy in the region, providing power to the factories that lined the waterfront in all three towns. Remnants of those buildings are still evident and markers will explain the importance of these early industries and the railroad that connected them with consumers throughout New England.

Work has been underway all summer to wrap up this final leg of the WRT and is due to be complete in October. The Winnipesaukee River Trail Association is a nonprofit group comprised of nine full time board members and a "whole database of volunteers," Hurst said. Through their efforts, which began in 1999, they have raised approximately $224,000 on their own and obtained several grants for construction of the trail. Funding for maintenance and other expenses for the trail will be an ongoing effort.

Hurst said the association is in the midst of preparing for a special fundraiser on Oct. 21 from 5-8 p.m. at River Front Place in Tilton. "Taste of the Trail" will highlight local restaurants, with samples of their specialties available for guests of the event. An auction for a wide variety of items will take place throughout the evening as well, and the association is still looking for donations to help make the night a success.

"We could still use some more sporting goods and gift certificates for the auction. Boating and auto items, artwork, crafts, sports equipment- things that goes along with outdoor recreation," Hurst said.

The association is also seeking more restaurants to sign up for the taste-testing portion of the evening. Those interested in joining in the festivities can contact Mark Whitham at 934-0451. Donations for the auction may be dropped off at Franklin Savings Bank on Route 3 in Tilton.

"We could use all the help we can get and look forward to making this a fun night for everyone from Franklin, Tilton and Northfield," Hurst said.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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