By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — It’s happy trails in Londonderry.
Voters approved a citizen petitioned article last week to spend $227,000 to support paving one mile of the town’s rail trail in North Londonderry, part of an overall project to bring a connected trail system to the region.
The total amount of the paving costs will be funded in part by other fundraising and contributions raised by Londonderry Trailways members.
Trail supporters are thankful for the town’s support and ready to get started.
“We’re certainly heartened by the support the community has shown,” Pollyann Winslow said.
Winslow was one of several trail supporters to speak earlier this year in favor of the warrant article.
The section to be paved will begin at Sanborn Road and end at Symmes Drive. Paving that stretch will give people a chance to walk, run or use their bikes.
Londonderry’s network is part of a system of trails connecting towns from Salem to Windham, Derry and up to Concord. Trails also run into Massachusetts and connect to New Hampshire.
The town’s six miles of trail would be an integral part of helping complete the network through the region. Paving the first one-mile stretch would give a boost to the project, supporters said.
Bob Rimol is a member of the Londonderry Trailways board of directors. He told town councilors earlier this year the community has been generous.
Volunteers have helped clear the trails and prepare for future pavement. Last fall, trail volunteers did a major cleanup of the property, cutting down about 2,000 feet of overgrowth on railroad tracks from Mammoth Road to Little Cohas Brook.
Donations from private supporters and businesses are coming.
“We also received a state grant to do some grading work, to get the area shovel-ready for pavement,” Rimol told the Town Council.
The approved $227,000 will support the trail’s “Demonstration Mile.” Work would include grading that one-mile area, plus 2 1/2 inches of asphalt. Loam and seed would complete the work on either side of the trail. That is the easiest section to do right now, officials said, and construction costs are favorable.
Rimol said people are ready to see the trail completed, but money is tight and there is not much state or federal funding to go around.
“Other towns ask us why we don’t finish our trail,” Rimol said. “But we are trying to squeeze blood from a stone right now.”
Having work begin in Londonderry is also good news for Derry trail supporters who hope that one day the dream of having a continuous rail trail from Salem to Concord might be realized.
“We are ecstatic that Londonderry has been able to make this milestone,” Derry Rail Trail Alliance president Erich Whitney said. “I can’t say enough good things about all of the people who have taken time out of their busy lives to make a difference in our community.”
Winslow said the trail group will meet to talk about what comes next in the paving project.
“The next step is to work with the town to refine the design plan,” she said. “Money won’t be available until after July 1. Our intent is to work as quickly as possible.”
Whitney said he’s happy the trail is moving forward.
“In less than 10 years, we have seen Windham, Derry, Salem, Methuen and Londonderry all making progress on this one rail trail, each through tireless efforts of volunteers working towards a common goal,” Whitney said. “How cool is that?”
For Winslow, having a trail system available to residents is just one way to offer recreation and activities for families to enjoy.
“It costs nothing to walk on a trail,” she said. “This is a way to get out with your friends and neighbors.”