Coastal Trails Coalition
2015 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 shared-use paths 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 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 support of our State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives and State Representative Jim Kelcourse the four local communities continued to make major progress on extending the trail network during 2015.
Special Thanks to MassDOT
We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the vital and constructive role that MassDOT’s Highway Division is playing in furthering development of the Coastal Trails Network. MassDOT worked cooperatively with the Border to Boston Trail Task Force to develop plans for the Border to Boston Trail and contributed extra funding for surveying, wetlands delineation and trail design to supplement Federal and municipal funding. They approved including the Whittier Trail as part of the Whittier Bridge replacement project, the first shared use path on an interstate highway bridge in Massachusetts. MassDOT also undertook responsibility for designing and permitting not only the Salisbury Rail Trail Connector under the Gillis Bridge, but also both the Whittier Trail stairway at Main Street in Amesbury and a connecting trail between Amesbury and Salisbury under I-95. These projects are essential to completing the network and to making it safe and useful for the people of the region.
1. Design of Clipper City Rail Trail (Phase II) Completed, Right of Way Secured, Construction Should Start in 2016
The City of Newburyport completed the design and permitting for Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk in 2015. MassDOT has put the project out to bid and construction should commence during 2016.
This 1.5-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 design process was supported primarily by local municipal and Community Preservation Act funding. CTC also contributed $10,000 toward the design funding. The Merrimack Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) has programmed $4 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the trail.
Final plans submitted to MassDOT can be viewed here.
2. Stevens Nature Trail Built in Salisbury
During the summer and fall of 2015 the Town of Salisbury and CTC worked together to build the 1-mile Stevens Nature Trail next to the southern section of the Old Eastern Marsh Trail. The new trail traverses a 71-acre tract of wooded uplands and tidal marsh that the late Joan Stevens donated to the Town for conservation purposes in memory of her late husband, Burley. The Town’s Planning Department secured a Recreational Trails Program grant to build the trail and CTC volunteers cleared the trail through the woods, large patches of thick briers and around ledge outcrops. Local volunteers also constructed two bridges across a tidal stream that meanders through the property.
3. MassDOT to Complete Whittier Trail Shared Use Path on the new I-95 Whittier Bridge during 2017
MassDOT’s project to replace the I-95 Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River is well underway. The $300 million project will build two new 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 convinced MassDOT to include a shared use path as part of the project. The 1.8-mile shared use path, to be named the Whittier Trail, 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 scheduled to be completed in late 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 local attractions. The interpretive panels will be installed at scenic 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 Whittier Trail 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 from Amesbury’s Main Street and Point Shore. 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. The MVMPO has programmed $2.6 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the stairway and the trail connection. Our goal is to have the two projects completed at the same time as the Whittier 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. During 2015 Amesbury was awarded a $180,000 state grant to support design of the Connector. 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 will be assisting 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. During 2015 the MVMPO programmed $787,000 of federal and state highway funds to build the extension in FFY 2016. Design is underway.
5. Northern Section of Border to Boston Trail Being Designed; Construction Funding Programmed for 2.3-mile Salisbury Segment, 1.3-mile Georgetown Segment and 3.2-mile Segment from Byfield in Newbury to Georgetown Center.
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 2017, will include a new 2.3-mile rail trail linking Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail to the Ghost Trail, Salisbury Elementary School and 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.
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 $6.7 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the 2.3-mile Salisbury segment and $2.0 million to construct a 1.3-mile segment south of Georgetown Center in FFY 2018. In addition, the MVMPO has programmed $4.9 million to construct a 3.2-mile segment from Byfield to Georgetown Center in FFY 2019.
6. 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 are making 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. During 2015 the City of Newburyport also started an Adopt-a-Trail program modeled on CTC’s that is administered by the Newburyport Parks Department.
7. CTC Trail Maintenance
CTC continues to sponsor Spring and Fall Trail Cleanups and to recruit volunteers to help maintain and improve the Coastal Trails.
8. CTC Sponsors Salisbury’s 3rd Annual Art Stroll
The 3rd Annual Salisbury Art Stroll on May 16 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 a new humpback whale sculpture installed on the Merrimack River waterfront alongside the Gillis Bridge Trail Connector.
CTC made a grant of $1,500 to provide advance funding for the Art Stroll and $1,500 to help commission the sculpture. The Town of Salisbury Planning Department raised additional funds from local Cultural Councils.
9. CTC Holds 5th Annual Slow Bike Race Fundraiser
Young and old alike had fun at CTC’s 5th Annual Slow Bike Race held as part of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming on July 29. 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. The Slow Bike Race gets more and more popular every year. Don’t miss the 6th Annual Slow Bike Race during Yankee Homecoming next year.
10. CTC Supports First Newburyport Open Streets Event
CTC was a proud sponsor and participant in the first Newburyport Open Streets event held on a beautiful afternoon on Sunday, September 20th. Several blocks in Newburyport’s North End were closed to automobile traffic and crowds of pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, dog walkers and others took to the streets to enjoy a neighborly afternoon. CTC volunteers staffed a booth with information about the trail network and helped manage traffic during the event.
11. CTC Multi-media Presentation at Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts
On October 21 CTC hosted a well-attended public event at Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts whimsically entitled “Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads” to showcase the history of CTC and the plans underway to complete the Coastal Trails Network. The event featured speakers from CTC, the Border to Boston Trail, and East Coast Greenway and a multi-media presentation.
The entire presentation will soon be available for on-demand viewing on the CTC website and local Community TV Stations. The event was made possible by a community space grant from the Firehouse.
12. CTC Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement
CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails. During 2015 CTC made the following grants, investments and financial commitments:
•$10,000 granted to the Town of Salisbury to support design of the 2.3-mile northern extension of Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail as part of the Border to Boston Trail.
•Over $3,000 spent from Salisbury Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Bench funds to mow and clear brush along the Old Eastern Marsh Trail and 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 granted to the Town of Salisbury to provide funding for the Salisbury Art Stroll, and
•$1,000 granted to the Newburyport Parks Conservancy for rail trail maintenance and improvement.