We have noticed there have been many questions about the Seabrook Rail Trail since it has come into the limelight with the removal of the Walton Road Bridge. Hopefully this will clear up some confusion and answer some questions.
Who owns the corridor: NHDOT owns the corridor. They purchased the corridor back in the 1990’s, which runs from the Massachusetts border to the area behind the Hampton Post Office.They are currently in the process of purchasing the section of the Hampton to Portsmouth corridor from Pan Am Railways. The NHDOT is supportive of our endeavor to build the rail trail, as they are with the NH Seacoast Greenway (which will link each town from Seabrook to Portsmouth with a continuous rail trail), but they will not help to finance or build it.
Who are the Friends of the Seabrook Rail Trail (FSRT): We are a community based volunteer group that organized to help the Planning Board reach their Master Plan goal of having a rail trail in Seabrook. FSRT mission is to assist in the development, promotion and stewardship of the Seabrook Rail Trail. Our vision is to have a safe, non-motorized community trail that everyone can use. FSRT volunteers have donated many hours hosting clean-ups and bike swaps in order to raise money to apply for a 501c3 non profit, while trying to raise awareness of the project. Being a 501c3 will enable us to apply for grants, solicit funds and become stewards of the trail once it is built.
We have also worked very hard and volunteered many hours for the last 4 years hosting our annual ‘Run for the Trail’ 5k race during ‘Old Home Days’ week. This has involved countless hours beginning several months ahead of the race, pursuing sponsors, working on logistics, and marketing the race. We hope to one day have the race on the trail. All money raised will be used for amenities (parks, exercise stations, picnic tables, playground equipment, etc.) along the trail and to take care of yearly maintenance, hoping to relieve the town of that expense, once built.
The Walton Road bridge: has been part of FSRT’s discussion with NHDOT for several years now. At a meeting between NHDOT, FSRT, Rockingham Planning Comm. and NH Seacoast Greenway 4 years ago, NHDOT suggested that they may have a longer bridge span in their stockyards that could replace the current bridge. This would elevate it enough to prevent further truck collisions. This was discussed because neither the town or NHDOT had funds to remove the stone abutments, so leveling the roadway was out of the question at that time. UPDATE: bridge has been removed.
Steel Rail Removal: FSRT was contacted by Iron Horse Preservation (they are currently building Salisbury rail trail from Route 286 south to Lions Park) a few years ago and they offered to build Seabrook Rail Trail, but they needed the steel rails to fund the project. For 2 years we have been trying to get NHDOT to give up the rails so we could fund the rail trail. Well, we lost the battle recently and NHDOT decided not to release them to us. So that option is off the table. UPDATE: NHDOT has removed the steel rails and left the creosote ties for us to dispose of.
Management Agreement between NHDOT and Seabrook: This is an agreement that will allow us to take control of the corridor and build the rail trail. FSRT, Rockingham Planning Comm. and the Seabrook Town Manager, along with the Selectmen, have all been involved with the evolution of this as it has taken 4 years to get it to a point, which is still being revised by NHDOT. The signing of the agreement will also allow FSRT to go after grants, something we can not do until it is signed. UPDATE: NHDOT decided after 2 years of negotiations, that they wanted to create a new management agreement. This would be a template that NHDOT would use for all future rail trails in the state. We are currently waiting for this new agreement.
NH Seacoast Greenway: Rockingham Planning Comm. facilitates this board. It consists of a representative from each town along the corridor from Seabrook to Portsmouth, along with other interested parties (bike groups, town planners, etc). The goal of this board is to assist in the development of a rail trail from Seabrook to Portsmouth, connecting with Coastal Trails Coalition (Salisbury, Amesbury,Newburyport,Newbury) south of us and from Portsmouth to the Eastern Trail, which runs from Kittery to Portland, Maine.
East Coast Greenway: The East Coast Greenway is a proposed non-motorized trail that runs from Maine to Florida. Each town or city will own their own trail, but they will all be interconnected including Seabrook. The ECG hopes to set a standard, that trails in more populated areas will be well built, paved and wide enough to accommodate all the traffic they will see, as rail trails have become very popular in the last decade. These types of trails cost anywhere from $700,000. to $1,000,000. per mile, so obviously, just getting a few grants will not finance Seabrooks section (approx 2.5 miles). Of course for this price, it will be so well built that it will be virtually maintenance free for many years, outside of clean-ups.
If there is enough interest, we could have an open meeting at the recreation center in the fall with the town manager, the Rockingham Planning Comm. and other interested officials . Contact us at Seabrook Rail Trail on Facebook or send comments to www.seabrookrailtrail.org.