Nonprofit group seeks donations for Salem rail trail
By ELI OKUN
Union Leader Correspondent
September 16. 2016 11:05PM
(ELI OKUN/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)
The first phase of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor is slated to open next month.
— Two decades in the making, the first phase of Salem’s Bike-Ped Corridor — also known as a rail trail — is finally set to open next month.
But as construction wraps up in the next couple of weeks, the nonprofit Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor has one last obstacle for phase 1: It’s appealing to the public to help raise about $6,000 for final landscaping and amenities like benches and historical signs.
“This is really the first time we’ve asked the community to come help us,” said fundraising chairman Larry Belair, a former selectman and state representative. “We accept winning lottery tickets,” he added with a smile.
The 1.1-mile, $1.1 million phase 1 of the Bike-Ped Corridor will run roughly parallel to Route 28, from Range Road near the Windham town line to the end of Old Rockingham Road.
Future phases of the corridor would extend south to Main Street and through the rest of Salem, ultimately connecting with Methuen and Lawrence, Mass., trails in a replication of the original Manchester-Lawrence line of the Boston and Maine Railroad that it once housed.
In New Hampshire, Salem constitutes one end of a planned series of rail trails that would stretch all the way to Lebanon when completed.
Salem’s path is intended to appeal to walkers, runners and bikers. But the town officially calls it a Bike-Ped Corridor to emphasize its uses beyond recreation: for transportation around town or to work, and to stimulate economic development.
“The Route 28 corridor is our most important commercial corridor in town, and for people to move up and down that without having to use cars we think will provide a big economic benefit,” said Town Manager Leon Goodwin. “I think it’s actually going to be a very, very good showcase for what a bike-ped corridor can look like.”
The final funding piece would go toward plantings and flowers, distance markers, signs and granite benches.
Other groups in town have also pitched in to help beautify the space: Girl Scouts cleaned out a former cow tunnel, and a local boy created a wooden kiosk for his Eagle Scout project.
The fundraising appeal comes now due to some unexpected construction cost overruns that required the Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor to dip into some money the group had set aside for amenities.
With the federal government funding three-quarters of the construction, the group has over the years contributed more than $250,000 to provide the local funding portion — all from individual businesses or through personal outreach, and at no expense to taxpayers, Belair said.
When phase 1 is completed and people start using the trail in mid-to-late October, a Windham portion is expected to open around the same time, Belair said, meaning that people will be able to go from Salem’s Route 28 to downtown Derry, 9 miles north, all on paved trails.
“The original concept was being talked about in town before the trains ever totally left,” said Dave Topham, co-chair and treasurer of the Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor.
Phase 2 is currently in the planning stages, with a target date of 2017 or 2018.
Donations are tax-deductible and can be made by contacting Belair at 898-4909 or Topham at 898-9926.