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.
The highlight of 2020 was construction work on four key Coastal Trails Network trail projects which continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic:
• Completing the connection from Elm Street in Amesbury to the western end of Salisbury’s Ghost Trail under I-95 (0.8 miles). This project also includes a shared use path along Rabbit Road connecting the Ghost Trail to Route 110, and a trailhead at the historic Chain Bridge filling station in Amesbury with a connecting stairway to the Garrison Trail on the I-95 Whittier Bridge.
• Continuing work on the extension of Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail north from Mudnock Road almost to the MA/NH border (2.3 miles) with installation of a pedestrian bridge over US Route 1. Completion is expected in late Spring 2021.
• Building an interstate trail connection from the north end of the Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail extension to Route 286 in Seabrook, NH (0.2 miles).
• Starting work on the final harbor front section of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II which includes a shoreline protection project to protect the trail and Newburyport’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Completion is expected by June 30, 2021.
CTC not only advocated successfully for the federal and state transportation funding and grants required to build these projects, but also contributed almost $103,000 of CTC funds for trail design and acquisition of the easements needed to move the projects forward. When the projects are completed 24 miles (80%) of the network will be in use.
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 physical rehabilitation. The trails have become an integral part of peoples’ lives and neighborhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented use to the trails as people sought safety and relief outdoors. 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 continue to appreciate the vital and constructive role that MassDOT’s Highway Division and the Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) play in developing the Coastal Trails Network.
MassDOT took responsibility for designing and constructing the Salisbury Rail Trail Connector under the Gillis Bridge, the I-95 Whittier Bridge shared-use path and the Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector. MassDOT also covered 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). It 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 Old Eastern Marsh Trail and Amesbury’s Riverwalk. Its current TIP includes funding for the Border to Boston Trail from Byfield to Boxford.
PROJECTS UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN 2020
Salisbury Rail Trail Extension to Seabrook, NH
Construction of a new 2.3-mile rail trail extension linking Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail to Salisbury’s Ghost Trail, the Salisbury Elementary School and Seabrook, NH, commenced in 2019 and will be completed in the Spring of 2021. The MVMPO programmed $5.6 million of federal and state highway funds to construct this segment of the Border to Boston Trail. CTC and the Town of Salisbury worked closely to move the design of the project forward and both contributed funding for trail design and right-of-way acquisition.
The trail extension is part of both the Border to Boston Trail and the East Coast Greenway and includes a bridge over US Route 1 in Salisbury. The project terminates just south of the MA-NH state line and Route 286 because a safe connection to Route 286 could not be made within the existing railroad right of way.
Seabrook-Salisbury Trail Connector
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 (FSRT) to secure recreational trail easements on adjacent land owned by the Seabrook Firemen’s Association. All parties greatly appreciate the willingness of the Seabrook Firemen’s Association to donate the trail easements essential for this vital connection.
The FSRT secured a NH Recreational Trails Program grant and the Town of Salisbury secured a MassTrails grant for trail construction. CTC and the FSRT also contributed volunteer effort to help build the trail and funds to pay for surveying and 2 design of the trail. In addition, SPS New England of Salisbury donated funds for tree removal and 5 Elements Property Maintenance of Salisbury volunteered to remove stumps and boulders to clear the trail. The trail connector allows users of the Coastal Trails Network to travel safely to Route 286, Seabrook Beach and the rest of the NH Seacoast. It also gives Seabrook residents and visitors direct access to the Coastal Trails Network. Construction was completed in 2020, but the trail will not be fully usable until the Salisbury Rail Trail Extension is completed in 2021.
Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector under I-95 and Trailhead and Stairway to Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path
This project was completed in 2020 and includes a stairway connection between the Whittier Bridge shared-use path and Amesbury’s historic Chain Bridge filling station on Main Street, as well as 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 constructing them.
The stairway provides convenient access to the Whittier Bridge shared-use path from Amesbury’s Main Street and Point Shore neighborhoods. The trail connection under I-95 is 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 provides a safe pedestrian and bicycle route between the two communities. The MVMPO programmed $3.2 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the stairway and the trail connection.
Harbor front section of the Clipper City Rail Trail
Most of Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk was completed during 2018. The 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. Unfortunately, during construction contaminated soil was discovered under a short section of the trail along the harbor front and coastal storms caused significant erosion. In 2019, the City secured several grants and initiated cleaning up the soil contamination. During 2020 the City secured a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant and Community Preservation funds to complete the trail along the harbor front and to protect the shoreline, the trail and the adjacent Wastewater Treatment Plant from storm damage and sea level rise. All of this work will be completed by June 30, 2021.
STATUS OF REMAINING MISSING NETWORK LINKS
CTC is working with officials from the City of Amesbury on developing the Carriagetown Connector, to link Amesbury’s Riverwalk to Elm Street, the final trail connection between Amesbury and the rest of the Coastal Trails Network. During 2020 CTC gave Amesbury a $15,000 grant to hire engineers to prepare the plans and cost estimates needed to qualify the project for federal and state highway construction funding. CTC has also committed to give Amesbury a further $20,000 grant to provide part of the matching funds needed to secure a MassTrails grant to support designing, engineering and permitting the project.
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 at 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 secured MassDOT Complete Streets Program funding to install a pedestrian-activated signalized crossing of State Street and construct an off-road pathway along Parker Street to the entrance of Shephard’s Auto. MassDOT also initiated a project to design and install a pathway along the Route 1 Rotary and a pedestrian crossing of Route 1 to connect with the original Clipper City Rail Trail. In addition, developer Ed Hill has committed to build a portion of the pathway along Parker Street from Shephard’s Auto to the Newburyport/Newbury town line. Finally, CTC has committed to make a $10,000 grant to the Town of Newbury to provide matching funds for a MassTrails grant to design, engineer and permit the pathway for the final 250 feet along Parker Street between the town line and the Clipper City Rail Trail trailhead.
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 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 Newburyport and Newbury to Boxford. 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 in Newbury through Georgetown and Boxford to Topsfield that will be constructed in three segments.
Funding for Border to Boston trail design originally 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 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 $2.5 million to construct a 2.2-mile segment of the Border to Boston Trail from Georgetown Center into Boxford in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2022 and $5.7 million to construct a 3.2-mile segment from Byfield to Georgetown Center in FFY 2024. Design of a 1.8-mile segment in Boxford is also underway, but construction funding has not yet been 4 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’s 2020 Slow Bike Race Fundraiser Cancelled
Young and old alike enjoy CTC’s Annual Slow Bike Race held as part of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming in August. This “How Slow Can You Go?” race features slow motion “racing” and last minute surprises. The winner is the last “racer” over the finish line who does not touch a foot to the ground. Prizes are awarded for the slowest racer, most fundraising and best costume. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 race. We are hoping to hold the next CTC Slow Bike Race during Yankee Homecoming 2021.
CTC Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement
CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails. During 2020 CTC made the following grants and investments:
• $15,000 granted to the City of Amesbury to provide funds to hire engineers to prepare the plans and estimates needed to qualify the Carriagetown Connector project for Federal and State Highway construction funding and
• $3,500 spent on production of a new Coastal Trails video that was presented at MassDOT’s annual transportation trade show. It is available for viewing here.