Trash, danger and assaults on the Nashua Rail Trail
What's NextHelp clean up the Heritage Rail Trail with the Police Athletic League, Wed. Oct. 17 at 5 p.m., at the intersection of Ash and West Hollis streets.
Built in 1999, “The Heritage Trail reflects the way of life that has passed by,” said Tom Lopez, who's leading a cleanup effort with the Police Athletic League next Wednesday. “We need to decide on a way of life for today that includes taking care of the city we live in.”
Lopez said the Tree Streets area is the heart of Nashua, representing the city's melting pot.
“Things are always changing there,” he said. “There's always new people moving in, new people moving out, but there's also the people who've always lived there.”
In spite of this ode to the city's past, the murals are tagged with graffiti now, trash is strewn along the sides of the walkway, and residents fear walking alone there after dark.
“People have been getting jumped on the trails at night,” said Cheryl Rochette, who's lived in the Tree Streets neighborhood for decades and takes the Heritage Trail up to four times a day. “It's not really safe at night, unless you've got like two of you, then it's okay.”
The trail, which runs alongside West Hollis St. from Simon to Main streets, is divided into block-length stretches by the streets that cut through it. Each section is sponsored by a neighboring organization.
Sponsored by the Police Athletic League, the trail between Ash and Vine, is overgrown with weeds and bushes. With abandoned tires, campaign signs and a vacuum cleaner, it's increasingly taking on the appearance of a dump.
Lopez said the establishment of the trail built inertia towards enjoying the community's heritage, recognizing the value of the Tree Streets and their people.
“Now the inertia is in the other direction—we're throwing garbage on our heritage.”
For Lopez, the responsibility to maintain the trail comes down to three parties: the city, the sponsors and the residents.
“We don't want the neighborhoods that are two blocks down from downtown to start falling into disarray,” he said. “So as a community we have to be more vigilant and active. It shouldn't just be somebody every now and then saying, 'hey we should do a cleanup project,' it should be people walking up and down and using that trail all day saying, 'here's some garbage, I'm going to pick it up.' ”
Lopez feels it's the city's job to provide infrastructure, such as placing garbage cans at regular intervals and keeping the bushes trimmed back.
While the city is focusing on major projects like the Broad Street Parkway, and the replacement of Main Street's sidewalks, Lopez said, “there's no reason why we can't focus on the space in between the two.”
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said since the Parkway and the Main Street work are being done mostly by the city's street staff, they have nothing to do with the Rail Trail.
She said the stretch between Vine and Ash streets is the only problem area, and though the city does a cleanup at the trail every spring and fall, it's primarily the role of the sponsors to keep the trails maintained.
“The sponsors should be maintaining (their portions),” she said. '”If they can't they should let us know so that we can either replace them or pick up the slack.”
Lozeau said the Public Works director was recently made aware of the decaying state of the trail, and scheduled a crew to go out and cut back the overgrowth and pick up the trash.
A stretch of trail behind Ferman Fabrics is carefully maintained by an abutting resident who appears regularly with a weed-whacker and a trash bag. Martin Ferman, a business owner whose building borders the trail, said it is meant to be a clean park for pedestrians to use without having to worry about being mugged.
“What's the actual state of it? It's dirty. It's filthy. It's drug-infested. It's homeless-infested, and the police do not know how to take care of it,” he said. He said he went to pick up trash one time and was yelled at by a group of homeless people.
Ferman called Public Works five times before they appeared to trim the bushes. The city also sent a crew to clean graffiti from the murals, but within days people were tagging them again.
Ward 4 Alderman Arthur Craffey, who represents the Tree Streets neighborhood, said installing motion-sensor lighting along the trail in coming months will make it more secure, alerting neighbors when someone is there.
Craffey, who regularly walks the trail with his wife, applauded PAL for organizing a cleanup.
“The city has been pretty effective in trying to clean up the trail when they can, but with so much park space (to maintain in town), they clean up when they can.”
As for the littering, Craffey said an awareness campaign might help spread the word. “Like we did in the '60s and '70s,” he said. “Keep the earth beautiful.”
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Simon Rios may be reached at email@example.com.