A Bridge Too Far – The Merrimack River Trail, Part II

There’s a great war movie called by this title, starring some real Hollywood heavyweights.    The main plot of the film was General Montgomery’s sad but true endeavor to shorten the war by capturing a whole series of bridges before the Germans knew what was happening.      Its main objective failed at the terrible cost of human lives.      


The lesson can be extended to the Merrimack River Trail.


If you check on the Internet, there is no website for this trail.      No one organization can claim any real ownership – rather, the whole trail is a ‘concept’.      Like some political movement, it surges forth fitfully, gains strength and then is driven back by lack of money or supplanted priorities.     As it slowly gathers strength, communities from north of Concord, NH to Newburyport have embraced it and so independent little ‘traillets’ are found all along the Merrimack River.


It’s one of those ideas that planning experts and trail enthusiasts dream up and try to implement.     They just forget to tell the rest of us what they are planning to do!


The Merrimack Valley Watershed Association. in 1997, were the first to conceive of a trail that would stretch from Lowell to Newburyport and would actually exist on both sides of the river.     It sort of floundered about as an idea until 2007, when the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission re-packaged it, got the Essex National Heritage Commission involved and submitted it for a grant to design it.       They were granted the money in 2008 from the National Recreational Trail Fund.    It was hoped that after a master plan was finalized, communities all along the river could apply for grants to extend the trail.


And then the economy failed and government money all but dried up.


What has kept this idea going has been local communities promoting the trail enthusiastically.


And THIS was the problem with the Moseley Pines to Maudsley Connector Trail Project.       


The Whittier Bridge became the Bridge Too Far!


If you are a trail aficionado or a planning expert, you could understand how important this project is to the Merrimack River Trail.    Ever hear of the Bay Circuit & Greenway Trail?    No?      That’s another trail that actually intersects with Newburyport and goes all the way around Boston and of course, is partially part of the Merrimack River Trail. 


Now we all have heard of the Border to Boston Trail and we all love the Clipper City Rail Trail and the Old Eastern Marsh Rail Trail – why?     Because it has been promoted and talked about as a community.


When was the last time anyone heard the Merrimack River Trail being talked up or the Bay Circuit Trail for that matter?


I am hoping that the Project Manager’s connector trail is not abandoned.      If the community is informed and gets excited behind this effort, then eventually the city councilors will get behind the project.      This means ‘pumping it up’ in articles, press releases, public hearings and yes, with grant money somewhat drying up, fundraisers!


And the public needs to understand the importance of interconnection.


Imagine, a connecting trail that links Newburyport with the long Merrimack River Trail at the same time the bike path across the new Whittier Bridge linking with the Little River Bike Path to the south and the Ghost Trail and Amesbury bike path to the north – making off-road bicycling and transportation links from Plum Island to Powwow Hill in Amesbury, and Northward to New Hampshire, and South to Boston and West to Lowell.


-Once the public understands the goal and the importance of this link, this project will be worth re-submitting to the CPC.


-P. Preservationist


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
This entry was posted in Eco-tourism, Environment, Open Space, Recreation, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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