2016 CTC Progress Report

Coastal Trails Coalition
2016 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, shared-use paths and bike lanes 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) all-volunteer organization. Donations to CTC are tax deductible as charitable donations. CTC invests 100% of donations, grants and membership contributions in the trail network.

Major progress has been made on developing the network and 14 miles already have been completed. Local residents and visitors of all ages use the network to get to work and school, to trains and buses, and for exercise, dog-walking, family exploration and rehabilitation. The trails have become an integral part of peoples’ lives and neighborhoods. We expect the 1.8-mile Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path and the 2.1-mile Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II to be completed by the end of 2017. CTC will continue to work with our State Senators Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Bruce Tarr, our State Representatives Jim Kelcourse and Lenny Mirra, the four local communities and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to complete the trail network.

Special Thanks to MassDOT
We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the vital and constructive role that MassDOT’s Highway Division continues to play in developing the Coastal Trails Network. In recent years MassDOT undertook responsibility for designing and constructing the Salisbury Rail Trail Connector under the Gillis Bridge, approved a shared-use path as part of the Whittier Bridge replacement project, and funded the design and construction of a stairway to the shared-use path at Main Street in Amesbury and a trail connection between Amesbury and Salisbury under I-95. These projects are essential to completing the network and making it safe and useful for the people of the region.

Construction of Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk Underway

City of Newburyport Photo

Construction of Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk commenced in 2016. This 2.1-mile project will provide an off-road pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel along the Merrimack River shoreline between the City’s downtown and central waterfront and the seawall at Joppa Park. 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 Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) committed $4.4 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the trail.

The work completed so far has highlighted the need to make a safe connection between the Parker Street terminus of this project and the northern end of the existing Clipper City Rail Trail at the MBTA Commuter Rail Station. The City of Newburyport has begun to consider the alternatives and CTC will assist as needed.

MassDOT to Complete Shared-Use Path on the new I-95 Whittier Bridge during 2017

Model rendering of the Merrimack River overlook on the new Whittier Bridge. (Visualization credit: Parsons Brinckerhoff)

MassDOT’s project to replace the I-95 Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River is expected to be completed in late 2017. The $300 million project will build two new interstate highway bridges and 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 persuaded MassDOT to include a shared-use path as part of the project, the first such path on an interstate highway bridge in Massachusetts. The 1.8-mile shared-use path, recently named the Garrison Trail in honor of Newburyport’s famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, 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.

CTC organized a committee of local municipal leaders, historians, cultural leaders and naturalists to work with MassDOT to develop entrance signs for the Garrison Trail and a series of interpretive panels featuring local history, nature and culture as well as local attractions. The interpretive panels will be installed at scenic overlooks on the new Whittier Bridge and at entrances to the trail.

MassDOT Designing Main Street Stairway to Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path and Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connection under I-95

MassDOT Photo: View from the rail trail looking up at the new I-95 bridge over the abandoned railroad easement.

During the planning of the Whittier Bridge replacement project local municipal leaders and CTC successfully advocated for a stairway connection between the Whittier Bridge shared-use path and Amesbury’s historic Chain Bridge filling station on Main Street, as well as for a trail connection under I-95 between Salisbury’s Ghost Trail and Elm Street in Amesbury. The stairway will provide convenient access to the shared-use path from Amesbury’s Main Street and Point Shore. The trail connection under I-95 will 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 will provide a safe pedestrian and bicycle route between the two communities. Neither project was initially included as part of the Whittier Bridge replacement project, so we are extremely pleased that MassDOT recognized the importance of both projects and took responsibility for designing and permitting them. The MVMPO programmed $2.6 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the stairway and the trail connection in FFY 2018. Our goal is to have the two projects completed as soon as possible after the Garrison Trail opens.

Progress on Carriagetown Connector and Amesbury Riverwalk Extension
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. Amesbury was awarded $180,000 in a state grant to support design of the Connector, and design is now underway. Our State representatives included $1.8 million to fund construction of this connection in the 2014 State Transportation Bond Bill. CTC helped Amesbury secure a recreational trail easement between Carriagetown Plaza and Elm Street and hopes to assist Amesbury in obtaining additional easements from Carriagetown Plaza and National Grid that will be needed to make the trail connection.

The City of Amesbury has been planning to extend the Riverwalk into the new Heritage Park along the Powow River. The MVMPO has programmed $671,000 of federal and state highway funds to build the extension in FFY 2017. Design is underway.

Northern Section of Border to Boston Trail Being Designed; Construction Funding Programmed for 2.3-mile Salisbury Segment and 1.3-mile Georgetown-Boxford 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, to be completed in 2018, will include:
a new 2.3-mile rail trail linking Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail to the Ghost Trail, to Salisbury Elementary School and to Seabrook, NH;
an on-road link from the MBTA commuter rail station in Newburyport to Byfield in Newbury; and
a new 7.2-mile rail trail from Byfield through Georgetown and Boxford to Topsfield.

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 Salisbury, Newbury, Georgetown and Boxford. 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 from Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, TD Bank Foundation, SPS New England and CTC Board members to support design of the trail in Salisbury.

The MVMPO has programmed $6.1 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the 2.3-mile Salisbury segment of the Border to Boston Trail in FFY 2018 and $1.9 million to construct a 1.3-mile segment from Georgetown Center to Boxford in FFY 2019. CTC is working with the Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail to make a trail connection between the northern end of the Salisbury segment and Route 286 in Seabrook, NH. The proposed trail connection would provide a safe way for users of the Coastal Trails Network to get to Route 286 and to Seabrook Beach and also would give Seabrook residents access to the Coastal Trails Network. When completed, all of these trails will become part of the East Coast Greenway.

CTC Administers 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 make annual contributions to CTC toward maintaining and improving the trails. The mileposts allow trail users who need emergency 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 implemented an Adopt-a-Trail program modeled on CTC’s that is administered by the Newburyport Parks Department.

CTC Trail Maintenance
CTC continues to sponsor and organize spring and fall trail cleanups and to recruit volunteers to help maintain and improve the Coastal Trails.

CTC Sponsors Salisbury’s 4th Annual Art Stroll

Salisbury Art Stroll on the Old Eastern Marsh Trail

The 4th Annual Salisbury Art Stroll on May 14 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. The Art Stroll also featured the dedication of the new 1-mile Stevens Nature Trail that links to the Old Eastern Marsh Trail. CTC made a grant of $1,500 to provide advance funding for the Art Stroll and designed the entrance signs for the Stevens Nature Trail. The Town of Salisbury Planning Department raised additional funds from local Cultural Councils.

CTC Holds 6th Annual Slow Bike Race Fundraiser
Young and old alike had fun at CTC’s 6th Annual Slow Bike Race held as part of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming on August 3. This “How Slow Can You Go?” race featured slow motion “racing” and last minute surprises. The winner was the last “racer” over the finish line who did not touch a foot to the ground. Prizes were awarded for the slowest racer, most fundraising and best costume. The Slow Bike Race gets more and more popular every year. Don’t miss the 7th Annual Slow Bike Race during Yankee Homecoming next year.

CTC Makes Presentation at NH Seacoast Greenway Event
The Rockingham Planning Commission and the Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail held an event in Seabrook on October 22 to provide information to officials and residents from eight municipalities along the route of the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway. The Greenway is a proposed rail trail that would extend from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire State Line in Seabrook to Portsmouth. A CTC representative1made a presentation at the event and also led a walk on Salisbury’s Ghost Trail to provide information to attendees about trail construction and maintenance and the development of the Coastal Trails Network.

CTC Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement
CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails. During 2016 CTC made the following grants and investments:

$5,000 granted to the City of Newburyport to support design of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II project,
Over $3,000 spent from Salisbury Adopt-a-Trail funds to trim overhanging limbs and cut down dead trees along the Ghost Trail, to purchase materials and equipment for trail maintenance, to replace interpretive signs and wayfinding signs, and to make other trail improvements,
$1,500 to develop preliminary design plans for a trail connection between the northern end of the Border to Boston Trail in Salisbury and Route 286 in Seabrook, NH, and
$1,500 granted to the Town of Salisbury to provide funding for the Salisbury Art Stroll.