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Two more miles added to Winnipesaukee River Trail

Winnipesaukee River Trail Association member Ken Norton jokes with the crowd after the ribbon is cut. From left are Pat Consentino, chair of the Tilton Board of Selectmen; Richard and Shirley Maher, who provided a construction easement for the project; Northfield Selectman Steve Bluhm; and Norton. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
October 13, 2010
TILTON — Phase II of the Winnipesaukee River Trail is complete and ready for use, just in time for fall foliage season.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday near the trail's intersection with Route 140. Work on Phase II, which runs from the train station in Northfield to Route 140, started this spring, though the project itself is more than 10 years in the making.

"Bit by bit we've gotten there," trail association member Ken Norton told the crowd gathered at Thursday's ceremony.

The first meeting about the possibility of building a trail parallel to the Winnispesaukee River was held in 1998. Board of Directors Vice President Rick Silverberg said that for the first few years, board members walked along the river to decide which side the trail could go on.

"We got our feet wet quite a few times," he said.

After spending several years submitting grant applications and fundraising, construction for Phase 1 began in 2004 and was completed in 2005. That portion of the trail is 3.1 miles long and runs from Trestle View Park in Franklin to the Northfield train station.

It took another five years to get the funding, easements and safety concerns taken care of for Phase II. This 2-mile section of trail is the first "rail with trail" approved in the state, and there were some liability issues that had to be resolved before the project could move forward.

The construction easement was given by Dick and Shirley Maher, and the Towns of Tilton and Northfield have worked on several aspects of the project alongside the trail association.

"This is all about collaboration," Silverberg said.

Silverberg joked about the project's lengthy timeline.

"Don't ever underestimate how long it's going to take," he said.

Eventually the Winnipesaukee River Trail will connect to the Winnisquam-Opechee-Winnipesaukee Trail in the Laconia area, the Belmont Recreation Alternative Trail in Belmont, and the Northern Rail Trail that moves west from Franklin into Lebanon.

"The vision long term is to go from Lebanon all the way to Meredith," Silverberg said.

Currently there is a temporary route through Tilton, on a sidewalk on Route 3; the next phase will build a bridge over the river to move that portion of the trail off of Route 3.

Silverberg said they do have some alternative transportation grants at this point, and fundraising continues.

"With any luck next summer we'll be building a bridge," he said.

The next fundraiser is "Taste of the Trails," scheduled for Oct. 21. There is a trail clean-up day Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, starting at Trestle View Park in Franklin.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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