By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — If they build them, many will come —and they do.
Supporters of local trail systems are touting their success and predicting a bright future for those who love to walk, ski, ride bikes or walk dogs.
Trail systems in Derry, Londonderry and Windham were the key topic last week during a presentation at the Halligan Tavern, hosted by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
It was trail talk all the way.
“We have everything, from youngsters on the trail for the first time to older people, skateboarders, horses, we have it all,” Windham Rail Trail Alliance’s Mark Samsel said. “It’s truly amazing.”
Samsel is passionate about his town’s trail system.
In Windham, the trail runs along a scenic stretch of abandoned rail between Range and Windham Roads, about 4 miles. The trails eventually connect to the Derry section near the town line.
Derry’s trails then continue into the downtown at the historic former depot building on Broadway and beyond.
The popular recreation trail in these communities is part of a statewide initiative, the Granite State Rail Trail, and will eventually provide opportunities for hiking, biking, running, walking and snowmobiling from the Massachusetts border to Concord.
Bob Rimol of Londonderry Trailways remembered moving to town 20 years ago and riding a bike near many overgrown trails in town. That’s a far cry from Londonderry’s trail system today.
“I started biking on Windham and Derry trails,” Rimol said. “I wanted Londonderry to have the same.”
The Trailways group started in 1999 and now many of Londonderry trails are seeing significant progress.
In March, Londonderry voters approved spending $227,000 to support the paving of a one-mile stretch of town trail between Sanborn Road and Symmes Drive. Bids were due on that project this week and the paving could be completed later this fall.
“That was a strong message to us that the people of Londonderry wanted a rail trail,” Rimol said. “There are a lot of good things happening in Londonderry.”
Many residents also pitch in to do cleanup work, Rimol said. It’s also often tough to find the money to support trail work.
Londonderry recently received a matching grant of $100,000 from the state for the town’s peat bog section of the trail system.
While Londonderry works to get trail sections paved, Derry and Windham have been ahead of the curve. Nearly eight miles of the trail are already paved between the two towns, making it the longest continuous abandoned railbed trail in New Hampshire.
Local physician John Daley serves on the boards for both Derry and Londonderry trail groups. He called Windham the leader when it comes to doing it right.
“Windham pioneered the rail trails in Southern New Hampshire and we’re following their lead,” Daley said. “Build it and they will come, and they do. Everyone who uses a trail thinks it’s a wonderful thing.”
Having a connected trail system in local towns can only help a community grow and thrive.
“It’s free, anyone can use it,” Rimol said. “It’s good for your state of mind, good for your health, good for the economy.”
Samsel said it’s happy trails for the state.
“It’s a statewide initiative, we’re a team,” he said. “And we want people to be part of our story.”