January 21, 2011

Happy Trails!

The Derry Rail Trail Alliance is working toward replacing the tunnel that runs under Bowers Road with a concrete walkable underpass to connect the Derry path with the Windham segment. PHOTO COURTESY DRTA
Union Leader Correspondent
The section of the Rail Trail heading south from 
Bowers Road, should be completed this year. 
DERRY -- Return on investment is an important consideration when laying down a wad of cash for a cause. That’s why the Derry Rail Trail Alliance is feeling pretty good about the $225,000 the town invested in their cause a few years back, paving a community bike and recreation trail that would connect Derry to Windham, and eventually, to Salem.
Yes, there were naysayers. Skeptics wondered if the bike enthusi­
asts were just wheeling and dealing, destined to come back for more cash before the trail was completed. 

Instead, Rail Trail President Erich Whitney yesterday said he was happy to report that he’s about to go before the town to collect the balance of that $225,000 investment, which will fulfill the requirements of a $1.27 million federal Transportation Enhancement program grant awarded last year to the Derry Rail Trail Alliance to help complete the recreational path. 
“What we’re getting is about $650,000 worth of return on the town’s $225,000 investment,” said Whitney. “We leveraged the town money to maximize a return to the town. We’ve gone out and partnered with Windham and Salem, and raised our share of the matching funds in a different way.” 
All that’s left is to process some paperwork and then a construction schedule can be set. 
“The good news is that construction on Phase 2 of the trail will be completed in Derry this year, which means Windham will start next year to complete its trail to Salem, and the next year, Salem will be able to complete its part of the trail,” Whitney said. 
The overarching blueprint for an interconnected trail extending from Salem to Concord grew out of a 2003 state feasibility study as a way to increase, encourage and enchance “intermodal transportation” such as pedestrian and bicycle traffic throughout the southern part of the state. 
The $1.27 million TE grant will pay for the cost of replacing the existing inadequate circular metal culvert beneath Bowers Road with a concrete box culvert, as well as paving the rest of the trail to the Windham town line. 
Although the Derry-to-Windham stretch of the trail is all but accomplished, fundraising will continue as the group shifts its focus to the part of the trail that extends into Londonderry, said Whitney. 
“The folks in Londonderry are starting to work on their end of the trail — expanding the trail from Salem to Concord is still something we’d like to see completed at some point in history,” Whitney said. 
He said a $5,000 grant recently received from Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare will go into the hope chest for the Londonderry stretch of trail now that the Derry trail is financed. 
“It will be our next big push. We know it’s going to be tough. These financial times are difficult, and so we know we have to get creative. We just hope that people who want to see this happen will continue to support our efforts,” Whitney said. 
To that end, a local restaurant in Londonderry has stepped up to get the fundraising going, said Rail Trail board member Mary Watson. 
“Whippersnappers of Londonderry has offered to sponsor an I Love the Rail Trail fundraising dinner on Valentine’s Day. We’re hoping everyone will come out with their sweetheart or their family and enjoy a dinner to benefit the trail,” Watson said. 
The restaurant will donate 50 percent of every dinner tab purchased between 5 and 8 p.m. on Feb. 14 to the Rail Trail, Watson said. 
“People just have to remember to mention to their server that they’re there to support the Rail Trail,” Watson said. 

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