SALEM — The town’s rail trail project is starting to pick up steam.
Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to allow the work to begin and to accept a $25,000 donation for the project from the Friends of Salem Bike-Ped Corridor. They agreed to sign a contract with a Nevada-based organization that will help turn the old railroad bed into a beautiful trail for walkers and cyclists.
The project is spearheaded by local resident David Topham and other members of the Friends group, including Linda Harvey. Topham, who outlined the project for selectmen before their vote, said he was pleased to receive approval, but not surprised.
The town, including community development director William Scott, has been working with the group since 2006. No taxpayer money will be used for the project, Topham said. “I felt like we had a leg up,” he said yesterday. “I felt pretty good going into it.”
Before accepting the donation, Selectman Stephen Campbell said he wanted to make sure the money would only be spent on the rail trail.
Approximately 20 supporters of the project packed the Knightly Meeting Room at Town Hall, Topham said.
Residents have backed the project since it was first proposed in the 1990s. Receiving approval from selectmen means there is only one more hurdle to overcome before work can begin, Topham said.
He said his group learned only a couple of weeks ago from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a stormwater runoff permit was still needed. A local engineering firm is seeking the permit, with hope the Iron Horse Preservation Society can begin work later this month, Topham said. “Iron Horse is ready to start in Salem this week,” he said.
Joseph Hattrup, the organization’s chief operating officer, also appeared before selectmen Monday night.
Members of the railroad preservation group travel around the country and pull up old track for free. They fund the work by selling the track and equipment to help restore historic railroads.