A look at rail trails: N.H. Senate OKs establishment of advisory committee

Telegrapj photo by ADAM URQUHART The Nashua Heritage Rail-Trail runs 1.3 miles through the city, starting next to City Hall on Main Street. Many city residents use the trail throughout the year either for recreation or as a shortcut to their destination.

NASHUA – The New Hampshire state Senate passed legislation on Thursday to establish a rail trail advisory committee to assist the Department of Transportation in updating the state trails plan at a price of $200,000.

The Senate passed SB 185, which will fund a rail trail study. The money will come from a General Fund appropriation to the DOT in FY 2020 to conduct this study.

Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, is the prime sponsor of the bill. It calls for directing the DOT to update the 2005 rail corridor inventory through state records, statewide trail organizations and regional planning commissions, including, by trail, the funding sources and permitted uses, among other things.

“Now is the time to establish a rail trail advisory committee and provide funding to update the state rail trails plan. I applaud the Senate’s bipartisan work to increase funding for municipal rail trails and shared maintenance agreements which will boost tourism and economic development opportunities along the trails,” Kahn said.

Additionally, in developing the plan, DOT officials would:

*include a statewide economic-impact analysis on the value of rail trails;

*host a minimum of three public hearings, each in a different area of the state, to solicit public comment to shape the plan and *make the final plan available on the DOT website; and

*compile and maintain a list of trail organizations and the areas of the state each serves.

However, the bill text also states property lines may be reestablished with abutting private property owners in determining how to ensure the integrity of publicly owned rail trail corridors.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said she is pleased to support this bill and hopes to give more people a chance to enjoy the state’s expansive network of trails.

“I would love to see a rail trail span across the state, a true possibility, and look forward to the rail trail advisory committee exploring all possibilities the Granite State has to offer,” Carson said.

Right now, trail blazers can walk, bike, hike and explore 300 miles of rail corridors owned by the state. The advisory committee established by this bill would work to ensure the preservation and integrity of these assets, while providing direction for future development.

According to www.traillink.com, the Nashua Heritage Rail-Trail stretches 1.3 miles through the city, starting next to City Hall on Main Street. This trail shares the corridor of the Nashua River Rail-Trail, which starts out in the southern section of the city, ending in Ayer, Massachusetts. The Heritage trail is part of the original 45.3-mile corridor that once extended from central Massachusetts to Nashua.

ONLINE

To view SB 185, visit the website at: https://legiscan.com/NH/text/SB185/id/1863581.