2018 CTC Progress Report

Coastal Trails Coalition, Inc. (CTC) is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to assist in developing the Coastal Trails Network, a 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.

With the completion in 2018 of the 1.9-mile Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path and 1.4 miles of Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail, 20 miles (2/3rds) of the network is now complete.  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.  CTC will continue to work with our State Senators and Representatives, the four local communities, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to complete the trail network.

Special Thanks to MassDOT and the MVMPO

We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the vital and constructive role that MassDOT’s Highway Division and the Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) continue 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 and the Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path.  MassDOT also funded the design and construction of a trailhead and a stairway to the shared-use path at Main Street in Amesbury and a trail connection between Amesbury and Salisbury under I-95 as well as covering a significant shortfall in design funding for the Border to Boston Trail project.

The MVMPO is a regional committee that allocates Federal and State funds to highway, bridge, transit and trail projects in the region under its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  The MVMPO is comprised of representatives of the State Secretary of Transportation, the Executive Directors of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority as well as representatives of certain Merrimack Valley cities and towns. Over the years the MVMPO has provided construction funding for the Clipper City Rail Trail in Newburyport, Salisbury’s Eastern Marsh Trail and Amesbury’s Riverwalk and its current TIP includes funding for additional Coastal Trails Network projects.   

MassDOT Completed Shared-Use Path on the new I-95 Whittier Bridge during 2018

MassDOT’s project to replace the I-95 Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River was completed in the fall of 2018 and included a shared-use path as part of the bridge replacement project, the first such path on an interstate highway bridge in Massachusetts.  The shared-use path has been named the Garrison Trail in honor of Newburyport’s famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.   

The new 1.9-mile path permits pedestrian and bicycle travel across the Merrimack River between Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport.  It extends from the Route 113 Park and Ride in Newburyport to Route 110 in Salisbury and provides easy access to Maudslay State Park.  

Leaders of the local communities and CTC successfully advocated for including the shared-use path in the bridge project.  CTC also 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 sign panels featuring local history, nature and culture as well as local attractions.  The interpretive panels are located at scenic overlooks on the new Whittier Bridge and at entrances to the shared-use path.

Construction of 1.4 miles of Phase II of Newburyport’s Clipper City Rail Trail Completed

Construction of Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk commenced in 2016 and most of it was completed during 2018.  The 1.4-mile completed section extends from Water Street through the South End and passes under High Street at March’s Hill Park.  It then continues to Parker Street in Newbury.  The trail will also continue from Water Street along the harbor front and connect to the central waterfront and boardwalk.  The City funded design of the trail and also installed sculptures and public art along it.  The MVMPO committed $4.4 million of highway funds to construct the trail.  During construction contaminated soil was discovered under a short section of the trail along the harbor front.  The City is working to secure additional funding for the cleanup so the rest of the trail can be completed during 2019 or 2020. 

Braunhardt Little River Trail Added to Coastal Trails Network

In recent years the Parker River Clean Water Association (PRCWA) has been working with the City of Newburyport to develop the Little River Trail System and the 1.2-mile Gloria Braunhardt Bike Trail in the area between Route 113 and Hale Street.  The PRCWA has developed trail parking and access points at both ends of the trail system and, with the completion of the Whittier Bridge shared-use path to the bus terminal at Route 113, PRCWA and CTC agreed to include the bike trail as part of the Coastal Trails Network. 

Salisbury Rail Trail Extension to Seabrook, NH to be Constructed in 2019-2020

Construction of a new 2.3-mile rail trail linking Salisbury’s Eastern Marsh Trail to Salisbury’s Ghost Trail, the Salisbury Elementary School and Seabrook, NH, will commence in 2019 and is expected to be completed in 2020.  The MVMPO programmed $7.2 million of federal and state highway funds to construct this segment of the Border to Boston Trail and MassDOT is currently in the process of awarding the construction contract.  

The trail extension will be part of the East Coast Greenway and will include a pedestrian bridge over US Route 1 in Salisbury.  The project will terminate just south of the MA-NH state line at Route 286 because there is no way to make a safe connection to Route 286 within the existing railroad right of way.  

Seabrook-Salisbury Trail Connector Planned to be Constructed in 2019-2020

To make a safe connection from the northern end of the Salisbury Rail Trail Extension to Route 286 and Seabrook, NH, CTC and the Town of Salisbury worked with the Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail to secure recreational trail easements on adjacent land owned by the Seabrook Firemen’s Association.  The Town of Salisbury, CTC and the Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail are working together to raise construction funding and to build the trail connector during 2019 and 2020.  The trail connector will allow users of the Coastal Trails Network to get access to Route 286 and to Seabrook Beach and the rest of the New Hampshire seacoast.  It also will give Seabrook residents direct access to the Coastal Trails Network.  The Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail have been awarded a NH Recreational Trails Program grant to construct the New Hampshire section of the trail connector.  The Town of Salisbury is applying for a Massachusetts Trails grant for the Massachusetts section.  And CTC will be raising matching funding.  All of them greatly appreciate the willingness of the Seabrook Firemen’s Association to donate the trail easements that are essential to permit this vital connection to be made.  

Trailhead and Stairway to Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path and Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector under I-95 out to Bid for Construction in 2019-2020

During the planning of the Whittier Bridge replacement project local municipal leaders and CTC 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.  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 stairway will provide convenient access to the shared-use path from Amesbury’s Main Street and Point Shore neighborhoods.  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 Salisbury’s Ghost Trail, and will provide a safe pedestrian and bicycle route between the two communities.  The MVMPO programmed $2.6 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the stairway and the trail connection and MassDOT put the project out for bid in September 2018.  Bid opening is scheduled for January 2019 and construction should commence in 2019 and be completed in 2020. 

Amesbury Riverwalk Extension Nearing Completion

The City of Amesbury and MassDOT are extending Amesbury’s Riverwalk into the new Heritage Park along the Powow River. MassDOT obligated $550,000 for the project and it should be completed in 2019. 

Missing Links Needed to Complete the Network

Carriagetown Connector

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 on the old railroad right of way 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. Our State representatives included $1.8 million to fund construction of this connection in the 2014 State Transportation Bond Bill.   

Clipper City Rail Trail Phase III

The extension of the Clipper City Rail Trail to Parker Street in Newbury has highlighted the need to make a safe connection from the Parker Street trailhead to the southern end of the original Clipper City Rail Trail (and the MBTA commuter rail station).  At present people walking or biking between the two must make dangerous crossings of State Street and US Route 1.  This has resulted in one pedestrian fatality and many near misses.  The City of Newburyport has designated this connection as Clipper City Rail Trail Phase III and CTC will seek to assist the City in designing and moving forward with creating a safe connection.

Northern Section of Border to Boston Trail in Design; Construction Funding Programmed for 2.2-mile Georgetown-Boxford Trail and 3.2-mile Byfield-Georgetown Trail

In addition to the planned construction of the Salisbury Rail Trail Extension described above, work is underway on designing the rest of the northern section of the Border to Boston Trail from Boxford to Newburyport. The design will include: 

  • 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 that will be constructed in three segments. 

Funding for Border to Boston trail design included $718,000 of federal highway funds, supplemented by $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 $6,000 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.  During 2017 the projected cost of the design was reevaluated and a shortfall of $1.5 million was identified.  Recognizing the long-term value of the project, MassDOT agreed to cover the shortfall and work on the design is underway.  

The MVMPO has programmed $1.9 million to construct a 2.2-mile segment of the Border to Boston Trail from Georgetown Center into Boxford in FFY 2021 and $4.3 million to construct a 3.2-mile segment from Byfield to Georgetown Center in FFY 2022.  Design of a 1.8-mile segment in Boxford is also underway, but construction funding has not yet been programmed for it.  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.  The City of Newburyport Parks Department is administering a similar Adopt-a-Trail program.  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.  

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 6th Annual Art Stroll

The 6th Annual Salisbury Art Stroll featured local artists and artisans who displayed and sold their work along the 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. The Salisbury Planning Department raised additional funds from local Cultural Councils.

CTC Holds 8th Annual Slow Bike Race Fundraiser  

Young and old alike had fun at CTC’s 8th Annual Slow Bike Race held as part of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming in August.  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 9th Annual Slow Bike Race during Yankee Homecoming next year.

CTC Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement

CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails.  During 2018 CTC made the 

following grants and investments:

  • $30,000 granted to the Town of Salisbury for right of way acquisition costs for the Salisbury Rail Trail Extension and the Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector @ I-95 (part of which was provided by a $10,000 grant to CTC from the Amesbury Health Care Charitable Trust),
  • $6,350 spent on surveying and engineering work for the Seabrook-Salisbury Trail Connector,
  • $2,700 granted to the Town of Newbury for Border to Boston Trail design costs,
  • $1,500 granted to the Town of Salisbury to provide funding for the Salisbury Art Stroll, and
  • $600 granted to the City of Newburyport for trail maintenance.