March! On The Northern Rail Trail, The Perfect Place to Stay Healthy

Our volunteers are busy with many trail projects

By George Heaton

The month of March brings transition to the Trail.  Hard-pack snow melts to mud. Snowmobiles cede to walkers. And eventually, buds start to appear. It is a hopeful time; a time to use the Trail and contemplate even-better times to come.

In this moment of National anguish and transition, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail – Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) urge you to March! On the Trail. Being out on the Trail supports our common quest for health, calm, and solidarity in these difficult times.

Meanwhile, if the FNRT-MC appears to have kept a low public profile recently, we have in fact been busy, both with current projects and plans for the future. Our doings are detailed below.

As is typical in winter, the Board’s schedule was curtailed, to a single meeting in January (Minutes heretofore published in the Beacon). The next meeting, scheduled for April, has been canceled due to concern for the health of all during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are hopeful that we can resume the usual monthly schedule (third Wednesdays) in May – but stay tuned.   Plans will be put up on our website – – and we intend to publish news updates in The Beacon if there are no monthly Minutes.

The members of our Board and closest supporters have pursued various new opportunities in “teams.”  Lindy Heim and Tom Frantz are drafting an application to the Granite State Wheelers to repair and light the Lawrence Street culvert at the ball field in Andover. Those of you who know this dark tunnel with undulating ground and loose rocks, will surely applaud this initiative, and we very much hope to work with the Wheelers.

Jack Shields and Lindy Heim are developing an application to the State of New Hampshire for a 2021 Recreational Trails Program grant. Its principal purpose would be to rebuild the culvert just South of Eagle Pond Road. In spite of several past repairs, the reality is that the current culvert isn’t big enough to handle the run-off from Route 4. A State grant would provide the resources to design and install a long-term “fix” to this problem that has plagued the Trail for years.

Chris Norris is prioritizing repairs to bridges, culverts, and ditches that can be accomplished this year; the necessary arrangements with contractors will soon be made. Ricker Miller’s similar efforts across the entire length of the Trail allowed for culverts to be cleared at Sam Hill Road, with Andover Town assistance.

Two “Bridge Guys” – George Heaton and Kent Hackman – are monitoring and interfacing with others in connection with projects to reconstruct bridges in Andover and Danbury.  In the former case – Route 11 over Sucker Brook in East Andover – a new design is proposed, prompting wide-ranging discussions among State, Town, historical, and environment constituencies. In Danbury the process for reconstruction of the bridge over Route 4, just south of the Town Center has involved the FNRT-MC as a consulting party. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that details historical and environmental aspects of the project, and commits the State to consult with us on any design changes before the projected work in 2021.

Looking forward, we are preparing the Annual Appeal for donations to help us keep the Trail in good repair. Lee Carvalho intends to come up from Connecticut to manage the joyful mailing/stuffing party, to which supporters are invited. Jim Lerner will send solicitations via MailChimp. Given the state of the external world, we will have to wait and see whether this can happen in May. Stay tuned.

As always, The Board will continue to communicate and work among itself by e-mail. Feel free to contact us!

With the Trail’s best season just before us, remember that there’s no better way to protect and improve your health and spirit than by getting out there and breathing deeply.