CTC 2021 Progress Report

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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 2021 was the completion of four key Coastal Trails Network trail connections despite the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Completing the Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector that extended Salisbury’s Ghost Trail under I-95 to Elm Street in Amesbury. This 0.8-mile project also includes a shared use path along Rabbit Road connecting the Ghost Trail to Route 110 and the Garrison Trail over the I-95 Whittier Bridge as well as a trailhead at the historic Chain Bridge filling station in Amesbury with a stairway to the Garrison Trail.
  • Extending Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail 2.3 miles north from Mudnock Road.  The project includes a connection to the Ghost Trail at Lion’s Park, a pedestrian bridge over US Route 1 and a connection to Seabrook, New Hampshire.
  • Completing the Seabrook-Salisbury Trail Connector, an interstate trail connecting the north end of the Old Eastern Marsh Trail to Route 286 in Seabrook, NH (0.2 miles).
  • Completing the final harbor front section of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II which gives outstanding views of the Merrimack River estuary and includes a shoreline protection project to protect the trail and Newburyport’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.  

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. With the completion of these projects 24.4 miles (81%) of the network is now 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 and recreation 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 (B2B Trail) project, including the extension of Salisbury’s Old Eastern Marsh Trail and 7.2 miles of rail trails in Byfield, Georgetown and Boxford.

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 to build the B2B Trail from Byfield to Boxford.  

PROJECTS COMPLETED IN 2021

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, was completed in the Fall of 2021. The MVMPO programmed $5.6 million of federal and state highway funds to construct this segment of the B2B 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 B2B Trail and the East Coast Greenway and includes a bridge over US Route 1 in Salisbury. The project terminated 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 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 NH Seacoast. It also gives Seabrook residents and visitors direct access to the Coastal Trails Network. 

Amesbury-Salisbury Trail Connector under I-95 and Trailhead and Stairway to Whittier Bridge Shared-Use Path  

This project includes a stairway connection between the Garrison Trail over the I-95 Whittier Bridge 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 MVMPO programmed $3.2 million of federal and state highway funds to construct the stairway and the trail connection.  

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. 

Harbor front section of the Clipper City Rail Trail

Mostof 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 was designed to 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.  Construction was completed on June 30, 2021 and CTC sponsored a trail opening celebration with a brass band and a march along the waterfront. 

STATUS OF REMAINING MISSING NETWORK LINKS

Carriagetown Connector

CTC is working with officials from the City of Amesbury on developing the Carriagetown Connector to link Amesbury’s Riverwalk to Elm Street and the Ghost Trail, 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 an additional $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 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). People walking or biking between the two have been required to travel in the street or on narrow dirt shoulders and to make dangerous crossings at State Street and US Route 1. This resulted in one pedestrian fatality and many near misses. 

The City of Newburyport 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.  This part of the project was completed in 2021. MassDOT has initiated a project to design and install a pathway along the Route 1 Rotary and a signalized pedestrian crossing of Route 1 to connect the Parker Street pathway to the original Clipper City Rail.  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.  In 2021 CTC made a $10,000 grant to the Town of Newbury and helped raise other funds 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.  The design project will be completed during 2022 and the Town of Newbury will be applying for a 2022 MassTrails grant to construct the pathway.  If the grant is obtained, the Newbury section of the pathway will be completed in 2023.  CTC intends to contribute part of the matching funds required for the grant. 

Northern Section of B2B Trail in Design; Construction Funding Programmed for 2.2-mile Georgetown-Boxford Trail and 3.2-mile Byfield-Georgetown Trail

Work is underway on designing the rest of the northern section of the B2B 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 through Georgetown and Boxford to Topsfield that will be constructed in three segments. 

Funding for B2B 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 has continued. 

In addition to the $5.6 million used to construct Salisbury’s 2.3-mile Old Eastern Marsh Trail extension, MVMPO has programmed $2.7 million to construct the 2.2-mile segment of the B2B Trail from Georgetown Center into Boxford and $5.7 million to construct the 3.2-mile segment from Byfield to Georgetown Center in Federal Fiscal Year 2025. 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 six miles of trails. Each post has a sign showing its location and most include 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 Provides Funds to Support Trail Development and Improvement

CTC uses its funds to assist in developing and improving our trails.  During 2021 CTC made the Following grants and commitments.

  • $10,000 of CTC funds and $27,500 raised from other parties was granted to the Town of Newbury to pay part of the cost of designing, engineering and permitting the Newbury section of the Parker Street off-road pathway.
  • $20,000 of CTC funds was committed to the City of Amesbury to provide part of the matching funds needed for a MassTrails grant to design, engineer and permit the Carriagetown Connector project so it would be ready for construction.
  • Over $7,000 of Salisbury Adopt-a-Trail funds were used to purchase materials, equipment and signs and to pay contractors to remove dangerous trees and provide maintenance on the Salisbury trails.
  • $500 was granted to the Newburyport Parks Conservancy to cover part of the cost of a new interpretive sign on the Clipper City Rail Trail.