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.

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 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?

Phase 1 of the project will start at Manchester Street, within Terrill Park, and go along the east side of the river to Loudon Road.  It will be about 1.2 miles long and include a 12-foot wide, 1/4-mile long boardwalk.  The City owns all of the land needed to build Phase 1.  Phase 1 is currently being designed.

When will construction begin?

Construction of a short section of the trail and a short section of the boardwalk will begin in 2017.

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.  A revision to the 2010 engineering feasibility study is now underway.  Phase 1 would cost approximately $2.6 million, including engineering and construction.

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?

History has shown that paved trails attract more users and a broader array of users than unpaved trails and that the additional users justify the additional cost of paving.  A key purpose of the trail is to provide access to people of all ages and abilities and persons with mobility challenges.  A paved trail accommodates wheelchairs more comfortably than an unpaved trail.

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.)

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.
  • If you have special talents or abilities that would be useful to trail development or building, you can donate your services
** To find out more, send an email to
 Revised 11/30/17

Visitors since 6/1/16