Friends of the Northern Rail Trail Minutes, April 2021

By George Heaton

Condensed from draft minutes.

Board Attendees:  Alex Bernhard, Steve Darling, George Heaton, Craig Heim, Lindy Heim, Charles Martin, Myra Mayman, Ricker Miller, Chris Norris, Steve Rasche, Jack Shields, Peter Southworth.
Loyal Trail Supporters: Barbara Couturier, Don Moyer, Patrice Rasche.

Grafton County Representatives:  Amy Chan, Cody Hussey

Guest:  Gary LeBlanc, Owner of Scenic RailRiders, Concord

Business Matters

Treasurer’s Report:    Treasurer Steve Darling reported on the last month’s activity and offered a proposed budget for the next year.  His report was unanimously approved, and more discussion of the budget set for the next meeting.

Balances in all budget categories show little change from last month.  The funds for purchase of the Trail Extension in Boscawen are awaiting disbursement.  We await the inflow of funds from this year’s Annual Appeal, now underway.

The proposed budget for next year offers a reliable starting point for more discussion next month.  Chris Norris will bring forward estimates of Trail maintenance projects.  And, with Annual Appeal funds expected, the May meeting will be the moment to concretize the budget.

Lastly, Steve reported that the State of New Hampshire has issued our sign permits.

A Transformative Vote

In previous meetings, FNRT-MC has welcomed Grafton County Trail enthusiasts and discussed the possibility of combining the two organizations of “Friends.”  In this meeting, we voted to turn this vision into reality by deleting the “MC” (Merrimack County) designation in our name and making the same emendation in all legal and financial contexts.  


The “Friends of the Northern Rail Trail” thus extends its area of stewardship throughout both counties.

Much remains to make the unity seamless, but enthusiasm is high.  Of particular note is the reorganization blueprint, offered by Craig Heim.  Endorsed by all present, the blueprint envisions actively soliciting new members of the Board to reflect our new geography and establishing activity-specific committees or task forces.   These goals will unfold over time.

Ongoing Projects

Trail Extension in Boscawen:  Jack Shields –  who has been spearheading the FNRT-MC initiative to extend the Trail 0.6 miles in Boscawen to the Hannah Duston site – reported on the project’s current status.  Happily, the negotiations among the various parties involved in transfer of the existing railroad right-of-way continue to move forward toward an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement.

Plains Road and Route 11:  Don Moyer – leading a group to devise a solution for the dangers of the intersection of the Trail, Route 11, and Agony Hill Road in Andover – reported that while a design and construction consensus has been reached with State officials, recent concerns have arisen about the impact on wetlands in the area.   Don is pursuing discussion of this matter.

Lawrence Street Tunnel:  Don Moyer reported on a new, cost-saving approach to this project, involving smaller lighting units than previously envisioned.  The Board therefore voted to authorize a $500 expenditure to purchase these lights, which will be installed and monitored.

Trail Counters:   Don Moyer reported on a new system of Trail Counters which has been found by Charles Martin.  Given that the need to monitor and the number of sites to monitor have greatly increased due to the addition of Grafton County mileage, plans for Trail counters will be taken up more fully at the May meeting.

Route 4 Bridge:  George Heaton and Don Moyer recently met with State DOT officials to discuss the elimination of a retaining wall close to the Trail, which is now part of the Route 4 bridge south of Danbury center.  All agreed that this ageing, non-esthetic structure should be eliminated and appropriate grading and ditching done.  We are gratified at the joint planning on such matters with State officials that will create another improvement for the Trail.

Andover Beacon:  George Heaton reported on a request from The Andover Beacon for a contribution to their current fundraising.  The Board appreciatively authorized $350 for this purpose.

Other News and Events

Grafton County Activities:  Amy Chan and Cody Hussey offered enticing perspectives and great enthusiasm on the possibilities for activities and volunteers on the Grafton County section of the Trail.  Of particular note is the “25th Anniversary, 25-Mile Challenge,” to get children on the Trail to celebrate its 25 years in Grafton County.  This and other initiatives will unfold and be pursued over time by the newly constituted FNRT.

Scenic RailRiders: Guest Gary LeBlanc, owner of the Scenic RailRiders  recreational pedal car facility in Concord, gave an overview of his activities.  The lease for this facility runs until 2024.

Bike Rodeo:  Amy Chan reported on plans for the Annual Bike Rodeo in Lebanon, to take place in early July.  A special effort is being made to enlist school children and have them use the Trail.  Those above school age are equally welcome – stay tuned for more information!

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 19, at 5 PM via Zoom.