A Rail Trail for Concord!
In 2016, we learned that Pan Am Railways was abandoning a 6.36-mile long railroad corridor in Boscawen (0.68) and Concord (5.68 miles), going from the southern end of the Northern Rail Trail in Boscawen to Commercial Street in Concord. From Commercial Street, it's just a hop, skip and a jump to Downtown Concord and the State House and all the shops on the new, improved, bike friendly Main Street.
We have a tremendous opportunity to convert Concord's 5.68-mile stretch of abandoned railroad property into a trail that could be used for both non motorized transportation and recreation. Opportunities like this are rare. In fact, this is only the fourth railroad abandonment in NH since 2001 and the first since 2008. If the State or the City doesn't take action, the land could be bought by abutters and broken up into small parcels.
Like it says in the statewide Rail Plan, “Rail corridors are difficult to replicate once they are abandoned and disassembled...."
In 2017, we initiated a petition to show the support of the community for this key stretch of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail. In two months, over 1,600 people, including 658 from Concord and Penacook, signed the petition--a very good show of support for the development of this rail trail. (Click here to see the names of the signers.)
In 2021, we initiated a second petition, again to gage the public's support for Concord buying the property. In just three weeks, over a thousand people signed it, including 438 from Concord and Penacook. (Click here to see the names of the signers.)
The evidence is clear that biking and walking trails promote better communities for families, visitors and business. This section of the MRGT would link to the Northern Rail Trail and bring the trail to the very doorstep of downtown Concord!
On May 9, the Concord City Council voted unanimously to authorize the City Manager to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation that will (finally!) put this land under City of Concord ownership.
The agreement projects the City will own the land on September 30, which means design and permitting can begin officially on October 1. If things go well, we will be able to walk, run and roll on the trail in spring of 2025.
This land purchase means half of the MRGT will be rail trail. That's something we didn't even dream possible 10 years ago!
Below is a map showing the citywide trail and highlighting the rail trail portion (green dashed line).
Shortly after the May 9, 2022 Council action (see above), but before the Purchase & Sales Agreement was signed (unfortunately), Pan Am Railroad was sold to CSX Railroad and the purchase of the abandoned railroad property in Concord was stopped in its tracks! CSX initially said it would not be taking up the purchase for "up to three years". However, Governor Chris Sununu, encouraged by Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, intervened and the purchase is now back on track.
The City of Concord has reinitiated the due diligence and the parties are back at the negotiating table.
Bucolic panoramic scene from the abandoned Pan Am railbed (Concord)
Map courtesy City of Concord