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June 23, 2013

Granite State Rail Trail coming together

For David Topham, it’s putting together the pieces of a 115-mile puzzle.

“It’s all laid out, we just need to bridge the gaps,” he said.

He is referring to what is being called the Granite State Rail Trail, a comprehensive hiking and biking trail that will run from the Methuen-Salem line to Lebanon, N.H.

Between Salem and Manchester, the route runs along the former railroad line linking Lawrence and Manchester.

The trail through Windham, Derry and Londonderry as well as Salem. Each town has an independent organization coordinating efforts to lay out the trail.

Topham, co-chairman of The Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor, has taken charge of getting the Salem portion of the project completed. Topham is currently looking for funding for a 2.8-mile portion of the track between Hampshire Road and Cluff Crossing.

“The community support has been tremendous,” he said.

The Friends needed to come up with a $170,000 by tomorrow to receive a federal grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. So far they have received $140,000 in private donations with more money pledged.

While the Friends have been raising money, the Iron Horse Preservation Society, based in Nevada, has been busy removing the rails in Salem since last November. The society is a non-profit organization which converts abandoned railroad lines to recreational trails. The group funds it work selling the tracks to restore historic railroads lines.

“We want to preserve corridors for all types of future use,” said Joe Hattrup, COO for Iron Horse. “If you just let nature take its course, it deteriorates and becomes completely unusable.”

Hattrup and his crew expect the work to be completed in Salem by early July. Once the work is completed, a waiting game begins for the Salem portion. The town will need to vote to use town money at Town Meeting in March to pave the trail. The town would be reimbursed by the state after the work is done.

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