Coastal Trails Coalition, Inc.
2014 Progress Report
Coastal Trails Coalition, Inc. (CTC) is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to assist in developing the Coastal Trails Network, an almost 30-mile network of rail trails and bikeways connecting the communities of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury. Formed in 2004 with the support of the Essex National Heritage Commission, the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program, and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, CTC continues to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) volunteer organization with no paid employees. Donations to CTC are tax deductible as charitable donations. CTC invests 100% of donations, grants and membership contributions in the trail network.
With CTC’s assistance and with the steadfast support of our Congressman John Tierney, State Representative Mike Costello and State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, the four local communities continued to make major progress on extending the trail network during 2014. One of CTC’s goals for 2015 is to gain the interest and support of our new Congressman Seth Moulton and our new State Representative Jim Kelcourse.
1. Town Creek Flood Control Project on Old Eastern Marsh Trail Completed
The northern half of the Old Eastern Marsh trail was closed during most of 2014 while the Town of Salisbury replaced the 19th Century culvert at Town Creek. Disastrous floods in 2005 and 2007 washed out the Town Creek rail bed and flooded local businesses and US Route 1. In response, the Town worked with the Massachusetts Wetlands Restoration Program, NOAA and the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a project that would not only reduce flood risks at Town Creek, but also help restore the Town Creek salt marsh. The Town used $1.2 million of FEMA and State Environmental Bond Bill funding to replace the old culvert and tide gate with two larger culverts and modern tide gates and to rebuild a section of the Old Eastern Marsh Trail. The project provides more control over future flood events and allows more tidal flow that will help restore the marsh. Trail users are very happy that the trail has reopened.
2. Design of Clipper City Rail Trail (Phase II) Underway; FFY 2015 Construction Funding Programmed
The City of Newburyport is working on design and permitting for Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk. This 1.5-mile project will provide an off-road pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel along the Merrimack River shoreline, connecting the City’s downtown and central waterfront with Joppa Park at the seawall. The pathway will continue on the old City Branch rail line through the South End neighborhood and the woodlands south of March’s Hill Park to Parker Street in Newbury. The City anticipates installing sculptures and public art along the trail. The design process is supported primarily by local municipal and Community Preservation Act funding, and will facilitate securing a 99-year lease from National Grid for the remaining portions of the corridor. The Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) has programmed $3.2 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the trail in FFY 2015. Additional funding will be required to complete final design and specifications and install enhancements.
3. MassDOT to Complete Whittier Trail Shared Use Path on the new I-95 Whittier Bridge during 2017
MassDOT’s project to replace the Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River is well underway. The $300 million project will widen the northern section of I-95 through Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury to four lanes in each direction. Leaders of the local communities and CTC convinced MassDOT to include a shared use path on the new bridge and alongside I-95. The 1.8-mile shared use path will be named the Whittier Trail and will accommodate pedestrian and bicycle travel across the Merrimack River between Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport. The trail will provide safe and easy access to key destinations such as Maudslay State Park, the Route 113 Park and Ride Facility, Route 110 and the Salisbury Ghost Trail. Construction is now scheduled to be completed in mid-2017.
CTC also organized a committee of local municipal leaders, historians, cultural leaders and naturalists to work with MassDOT to develop entrance signs for the Whittier Trail and a series of interpretive panels featuring local history, nature and culture as well as attractions in the local cities and towns. The interpretive panels will be installed at overlooks on the new Whittier Bridge and at entrances to the Whittier Trail.
4. MassDOT Designing Main Street Stairway to Whittier Trail and Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connection under I-95
During the planning of the Whittier Bridge replacement project local municipal leaders and CTC advocated for making a stairway connection between the shared use path and Amesbury’s historic Chain Bridge filling station on Main Street, as well as for building a trail connection under I-95 between Salisbury’s Ghost Trail and Elm Street in Amesbury. The stairway would provide convenient access to the Whittier Trail and the new bridge from Main Street and Amesbury’s Point Shore and the trail connection under I-95 would be a major step toward closing one of the last missing links in the Coastal Trails Network, the gap between Amesbury’s Riverwalk and the Ghost Trail. This connection would also provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a safe way to travel between the two communities. Neither project was initially included as part of the Whittier Bridge replacement project. However, we are extremely pleased that MassDOT recognized the importance of the two projects and has taken responsibility for designing and permitting them. Our State representatives provided key support and included a total of $2.5 million to fund construction of the projects in the 2014 State Transportation Bond Bill. Our goal is to have the two projects completed in 2017 at the same time as the Whittier Trail is opened.
5. Progress on Carriagetown Connector; Amesbury Riverwalk Extension Under Review
CTC is working with officials from the City of Amesbury on developing the Carriagetown Connector, a connection between Amesbury’s Powow Riverwalk and Elm Street in Amesbury that will be the final trail link between Amesbury and Salisbury and the rest of the Coastal Trails Network. CTC helped Amesbury secure a recreational trail easement between Carriagetown Plaza and Elm Street and will be assisting Amesbury in obtaining additional easements from Carriagetown Plaza and National Grid that will be needed to make the trail connection. Our State representatives were successful in including $1.8 million to fund construction of this connection in the 2014 State Transportation Bond Bill.
The City of Amesbury has been planning to extend the Riverwalk 0.2 miles from the Lower Millyard into downtown Amesbury and the MVMPO has programmed $2.1 million of federal and state highway funds to build the downtown trail extension in FFY 2014. However, the site of the extension has been found to contain hazardous materials and, as a result, reduction of scope and relocation of the project is being considered. The City is also determining the possibility of programming the funding to expand other regional trail connections.
6. Northern Section of Border to Boston Trail Being Designed; FFY 2018 Construction Funding Programmed for 2.3-Mile Salisbury Segment and 1.3-mile Georgetown Segment
Work is underway to design 16 miles of the northern section of the Border to Boston Trail from Boxford to the New Hampshire border. The design will include a new 2.3-mile rail trail linking Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail to the Ghost Trail and Salisbury Elementary School that will continue north to Seabrook, NH; an on-road link from the MBTA commuter rail station in Newburyport to Byfield in Newbury; and a 7.2-mile rail trail from Byfield, through Georgetown and Boxford, to Topsfield. The design should be completed in 2015 or 2016. Funding for the design includes $718,000 of federal highway funds, supplemented with $343,000 of state highway funds and $192,000 of local matching funds from the four towns. CTC contributed $5,000 toward Salisbury’s $59,000 match and $3,000 toward Newbury’s $12,000 match. CTC also raised $44,000 of additional funds for Salisbury’s match. Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, TD Bank Foundation, SPS New England and CTC Board members all made grants to CTC to support design of the trail in Salisbury.
The MVMPO has programmed $5.4 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the new Salisbury segment as well as $2.0 million to construct the 1.3-mile segment south of Georgetown Center in FFY 2018.
7. CTC Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Bench Programs
With CTC’s leadership both Salisbury and Amesbury have implemented Adopt-a-Trail Programs. The two towns’ rail trails now have mileposts every 1/10th mile along a total of over four miles of trails. Each post has a sign showing its location and a local sponsor’s name and logo. The sponsoring businesses are making annual contributions to CTC toward maintaining and improving the trails. The mileposts allow trail users who need help to give their exact location when they call 911. People feel safer and first responders can get to the scene quickly when help is needed. CTC and the Town of Salisbury have also implemented an Adopt-a-Bench Program that raises funds to install benches and other improvements on Salisbury’s trails. The City of Newburyport will also be implementing an Adopt-a-Trail program modeled on CTC’s that will be administered by the Newburyport Parks Department.
8. CTC Publishes New Coastal Trails Brochure
CTC published a handsome new Coastal Trails Brochure that includes the Coastal Trails Network Map. We printed 5,000 copies that we are distributing through local Chambers of Commerce, merchants, municipal libraries and offices and at CTC events.
9. Great Marsh Video QR Codes Posted on Coastal Trails Network
The Great Marsh includes over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beaches, tidal rivers, estuaries, mudflats, and upland islands extending from Gloucester to Salisbury. This unique complex of natural systems is a nursery for many fish and shellfish species, an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), and adds ecological, economic, recreational, and cultural value to our daily lives. However it is endangered by the spread of an invasive plant, Phragmites or Common Reed.
During 2014 the Great Marsh Coalition helped develop a series of educational videos focused on the Phragmites threat. QR codes linking to the videos have been posted at key locations in the Coastal Trails Network, allowing trail users with QR readers to learn about this threat to the Great Marsh. The videos also can be viewed on the Danger in the Reeds web site.
10. CTC Sponsors Salisbury’s 2nd Annual Art Stroll
The 2nd Annual Salisbury Art Stroll on May 17 featured local artists and artisans who displayed and sold their work along the Old Eastern Marsh Trail as well as local musicians who provided live music throughout the event. CTC made a grant of $1,500 to provide advance funding for the Art Stroll and the Town of Salisbury raised additional funds from the Salisbury, Newburyport, Amesbury and West Newbury Cultural Councils.
11. CTC Holds 4th Annual Slow Bike Race Fundraiser
Young and old alike had fun at CTC’s 4th Annual Slow Bike Race held as part of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming on July 30. This “How Slow Can You Go?” race featured slow motion “racing” and last minute surprises. The winner was the last “racer” over the finish who did not touch a foot to the ground. Prizes were awarded for the slowest racer, most fundraising and best costume. Stay tuned for the 5th Annual Slow Bike Race during Yankee Homecoming next year.
12. CTC Trail Maintenance
CTC continues to sponsor Spring and Fall Trail Cleanups and to recruit volunteers to help maintain and improve the Coastal Trails.
13. CTC Fundraisers at Not Your Average Joe’s and Flatbread Company
CTC sponsored fundraisers at Not Your Average Joe’s in Newburyport and at Flatbread Company in Amesbury. Lots of people turned out and had a good time eating dinner and meeting and greeting each other. We are very appreciative of these restaurants’ support of CTC and other community groups through their revenue-sharing fundraisers.
14. CTC Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement
CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails. During 2014 CTC made the following grants, investments and financial commitments.
- $5,000 granted to the City of Newburyport for design of Newburyport’s Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II,
- Over $3,000 spent from Salisbury Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Bench funds to clear trees and brush along the Old Eastern Marsh Trail, to purchase materials and equipment for trail maintenance, to purchase wildflower seeds to beautify the trails, to replace interpretive signs and wayfinding signs, and for other trail improvements,
- $1,500 granted to the Town of Salisbury from Salisbury Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Bench funds to commission a sculpture that was installed on the bank of the Merrimack River next to Gillis Bridge Trail Connector late in 2014,
- $1,100 granted to the Newburyport Parks Conservancy for rail trail maintenance,
- $1,000 granted to the Newburyport Art Association for a bench in the Association’s sculpture park that will abut the new Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II, and
- $110 spent from Amesbury Adopt-a-Trail funds to install a new interpretive sign on the Powow Riverwalk.