Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is the Merrimack River Greenway Trail?  What will it look like?


The Merrimack River Greenway Trail will be a continuous, off-street shared use path, roughly following the Merrimack River in Concord, connecting the Northern Rail Trail at the Boscawen Town Line, and the proposed Salem to Concord Bikeway at the Pembroke Town Line. It will be about 12-3/4 miles long and 10 wide and will be paved from city line to city line. The northern 6.8 miles will be a rail trail, along he abandoned Northern Rail Line. The southerly 5.9 miles will be a greenway trail, following the contours of the land. It will be a 4-season facility, serving bicyclists, pedestrians, skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized users, and will be universally accessible to the extent practicable.

It will serve both transportation and recreation purposes, connect villages, provide access to the Merrimack River and adjacent open space, and provide safe and inviting health and fitness opportunities. The trail will offer river views as well as river access when possible. It is consistent with the Concord 2030 Master Plan and Concord’s Vision for 2020 by connecting neighborhoods and re-connecting Concord residents to the Merrimack River.

It will be similar to the Blackstone River Bikeway (Mass & Rhode Island), Windham Rail Trail (Windham, NH), the Nashua River Rail Trail (Nashua, NH to Ayer, MA) and the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It will be similar to the Concord bike path along Interstate 89, near Hopkinton and St. Paul’s School, except that the MRGT will be two feet wider and very scenic. And, you’ll hear the chirping of birds instead of the sound of passing trucks.




How long will it take to build it?


This project will clearly not be completed quickly. There are many T’s that will have to be crossed and I’s that will have to be dotted. Progress will greatly depend on available funding.




Where will the first leg of the trail be built?


The first leg of the trail has been completed! Yay! Phase 1 is 12 feet wideand about 1/3 mile long and is in Terrill Park, which is at the intersection of Manchester Street and Old Turnpike Road, on the banks of the Merrimack River.




Where did the idea for the trail come from?


The concept of a recreation trail along the Merrimack River has been around for almost 25 years. A report called “Merrimack River Greenway and Trail System” was sponsored by the Concord Conservation Trust in 1990.

Concord 2020 formulated 5 “Vision Principles” through an extensive public participation process that included hundreds of Concord residents. One of those principles is “Preservation and access to the natural environment.” Among the guidelines mentioned as consistent with that principle are:
--Creating access to trails, rivers, and long-distance views --Preserving open space adjacent to rivers and --Creating trails
Both the previous and the current master plans contain references to a trail along the river. Master Plan 2030 shows an off-road bike path on a map in the Transportation chapter. The Recreation Chapter says bike paths and hiking/walking trails topped the list of recreation facilities and resources mentioned in a survey of Concord residents.

In 2010, attendees at a public listening session for the “Bicycle Master Plan” (BMP) strongly suggested the City should plan to develop bike paths, including one along the Merrimack River.

Clearly, Concord residents want bike paths, walking trails and access to their river.




How much will it cost?


The cost estimate for the entire Merrimack River Greenway Trail was initially estimated to cost about $12-14 million. The total cost is now expected to be significantly less, due to the availability of the abandoned Pan Am rail corridor.




How will it be financed?


The trail will be financed through a combination of government grants, public grants, private grants, corporate donations, private donations, and community fund raising. We will also explore the feasibility of using donated, in-kind materials and volunteer labor. City of Concord funding will depend on City Council approval and will always be preceded by public input.




Who will maintain the trail?


Officially, the trail will be maintained by the City of Concord, but we hope to always have a large cadre of volunteers who will do the light maintenance that can be done by volunteers. Furthermore, we will try to establish a fund that would help provide continuing maintenance so that the trail will not be a burden on the City’s taxpayers.




Will anybody use it?


“Build it and they will come,” says a popular phrase from the movie “Field of Dreams.” Many trail advocates around the country report usage beyond their expectations almost as soon as trails are opened. It’s impossible to predict exactly how many people will use the MRGT. However, based on its location, close to a densely populated area, and using guidelines developed from experience with similar paved urban trails, we believe the trail will initially attract an average of about 400 visitors per day and up to a thousand on weekend days.




Why does it have to be paved?


Generally speaking, paved trails attract more users and a broader array of users than unpaved trails. User counts tend to support that theory. We believe the additional user appeal justifies the additional cost of paving. A key purpose of the MRGT--and a top goal of the Friends of the MRGT--is to provide a universally accessible trail that can be used by people of all ages and abilities. Paved trails accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and other wheeled devices more comfortably than unpaved trails. Paving is so important to our central goal that paving the MRGT was included in our "Articles of Agreement", which are filed with the NH Secretary of State.




What’s the point in having a trail that goes from one end of the City to another?


One of the key features of the MRGT is that it will connect at each end to major trail efforts that are already underway.

To the south is the Salem to Concord Bikeway that is being planned and developed by volunteer and advocacy groups all along the way. A good example of what the MRGT will look like can be seen at the Windham Rail Trail, which is a part of the Salem to Concord Bikeway that was opened in 2006.

To the north, is the Northern Rail Trail, which is being developed by the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail. It is in a much more rural setting than Concord, so it is envisioned to be an unpaved but “hard pack” surfaced trail. There are currently about 57 miles of Northern Rail Trail opened to the public.

The MRGT will connect these two trails, providing a total 114-mile long trail that is almost entirely separated from motor vehicles, from Salem to Lebanon, called the Granite State Rail Trail. The GSRT will go through 19 towns and is being developed by nine nonprofit groups, working together for a common objective. (Links to other trail websites mentioned above are on the Links drop-down menu.)
Check out the Maps and Links sections of this website for more info.




Aren’t there obstacles to building in a sensitive watershed area like the Merrimack River?


There are, but they are not insurmountable. We have been and will continue to be working very closely with environmental and conservation agencies and organizations and we are looking forward to continued strong support from them.




Will horses be allowed on the trail?


The MRGT will be a busy urban trail with a paved surface, boardwalks and bridges. In most places, it will not be suitable for horses. Possibly, more rural sections could accommodate horses on gravel paths adjacent to the paved trail. Those decisions will be made by the City of Concord and will depend on availability of space and funding.




How can I help Friends of the MRGT raise money for the trail?


Anyone can contribute money to the trail directly by: Sending a check to:
Friends of the MRGT
PO Box 954
Concord, NH, 03302 Donating via credit card or PayPal. Certain employers will match their employees’ contributions to eligible tax-exempt organizations, such as the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail. Check with your employer.
We have been asked how to name the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail in a will. That can be done by simply adding “Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail” as a beneficiary in your will. If you have questions, you should check with your attorney.
We participate in several fundraising events every year. You can sign up to help by volunteering your time. Many generous companies have donated services and others have donated products that have been used for raffles. Amazon Smile Amazon will donate a small percentage of everything you buy if you buy from Amazon, through a special website. Click the button below for more info.




How else can I help?


You can volunteer your time. If you have special talents or abilities that would be useful to trail development or building, you can donate your services




Can the rails be left in place and the trail built along side or between the rails?


No. The right of way is not wide enough to accommodate both the existing rails and a 10-foot wide multiuser trail, side by side. We expect the MRGT to be a very busy urban trail, used by multiple types of users of all ages, from a wide range of economic levels, and with a wide range of abilities, on foot and on various wheeled devices. We believe it would be irresponsible to build a trail that is bounded by steel rails--which are less than 5 feet apart--that would be used by people with such widely varying abilities. We also expect some or all of the MRGT will be financed with federal transportation funds so the trail will be expected to comply with federal design standards for such trails, meaning it will have to be a minimum of 10 feet wide.




How can I become a member of Friends of the MRGT?


Friends of the MRGT is not a membership organization in the usual sense. We are a group of passionate individuals who work closely with the City of Concord to promote building the MRGT. That said, if you have skills and abilities that could help us, and time to devote as a team member, we would love to talk with you about becoming a trustee or a permanent volunteer. At the current time, we are looking for people with knowledge, skills and abilities in the following areas: Fundraising Bookkeeping Contact List Management Website Design and Management Trail maintenance Caretaker for kiosks and other physical property Events Management