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Mascoma Greenway Gets a Boost

  • Lebanon Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Coats walks along a railroad bridge over the Mascoma River in Lebanon, N.H., on April 18, 2014. Coats and city employee Rick Desharnais were cleaning sections of the bridge, which needs renovations and will be part of the Mascoma River Greenway. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

  • Upper Valley High School Trail Corps members remove rail ties from the defunct Boston & Main railway in Lebanon last summer. The section is slated to be paved beginning next month as part of the Mascoma River Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path connecting Lebanon and West Lebanon.

  • Upper Valley High School Trail Corps members remove rail ties from the defunct Boston & Main railway in Lebanon last summer. The section is slated to be paved beginning next month as part of the Mascoma River Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path connecting Lebanon and West Lebanon.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Mascoma River Greenway is about to reach its most significant milestone yet.

Construction of a paved, 2.1-mile stretch of the envisioned multi-use pathway connecting Lebanon and West Lebanon will begin this summer.

A contract between the city and Windsor-based Willey Earth Moving is scheduled to be signed on July 5, according to Lebanon Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Coats. Construction will begin shortly thereafter.

“I’m absolutely psyched to see (the paving) start to happen,” Coats said in a phone interview. “It’s been a long time coming and a lot of time and labor. To see this kind of progress happening is going to be invigorating, help us forget about the delays and excited to continue.”

The project, which likely will last until early wintertime, will pave a 12-foot-wide path on the defunct Boston & Maine railway along the river, roughly parallel to Mechanic Street and the Miracle Mile beginning near the three-way intersection of High, Mascoma and Mechanic streets downtown and extending to the Dudley Bridge area near the corner of Miracle Mile and Glen Road.

While the project originally surfaced as part of Lebanon’s master plan in late 1990s, it wasn’t until 2012 that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which owns the railway, entered into a trail use agreement with the city.

Mascoma River Greenway volunteers and supporters have raised more than $1 million toward this phase of the project and spent countless hours removing and disposing of the abandoned rail ties, among other necessary duties, before offering seeking bids for construction.

At the heart of the project is the desire to provide a means to non-motorized transportation across the city, while granting bicyclists and pedestrians access to many of Lebanon’s parks, trail networks and businesses without needing to use busy U.S. Route 4.

The path will connect to or easily link with Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, the popular Landmark Lands trail network, Miracle Mile’s shopping plazas and other amenities.

The project, estimated by Willey Earth Movers at around $1.3 million, also will repair four bridges along the route — one over Slayton Hill Road, another above I-89 and two over the Mascoma.

“There are some places we’ll need to level out with riprap because of washouts, and the bridges will be getting new decking,” said Luke Willey, a Windsor resident and vice president of Willey Earth Moving. “It’s a project we’re excited to be a part of. I think it’s going to be really good for the city.”

Frank Gould, a former state legislator who is co-chairman of MRG’s volunteer group, is excited to see the project break ground next month.

“The most satisfying part about it the experience for me is the support the community has shown throughout the process,” Gould said. “Not only have people been very generous with donations, but also the volunteerism and just the enthusiasm about it. I’ve been setting up as a vendor at the Lebanon Farmers Market for five years, and I haven’t heard anybody say it’s a bad idea.”

The potential easternmost and westernmost portions of a completed Mascoma River Greenway remain uncertain for the time being.

If completed as originally envisioned, the path will total nearly four miles and begin at the western terminus of the Northern Rail Trail, the 58-mile recreation path extending from Boscawen, N.H., to Spencer Street in Lebanon near the Carter Community Building Association campus. The desired end of Mascoma River Greenway is near the intersection of Seminary Hill and Main Street in West Lebanon.

Where Mascoma River Greenway will exist between High Street and the NRT is largely dependent on the results of the city’s ongoing Downtown Visioning Study and Tunnel Project which, among many initiatives, is evaluating the structural needs of the tunnel beneath the pedestrian mall and parking area.

Several options are being considered by the city council, including repairs that would build a new gravel trail inside the existing tunnel and install safety lighting. An alternative route that would skirt the tunnel and travel along the river and under the Hanover Street bridge also has been brought forward, according to Coats.

“There is still some evaluation and review (of the tunnel) to be considered by the city council before we know how it might tie in to the Greenway,” said Bruce Temple, assistant director of the Lebanon Public Works Department.

The future of the Mascoma River Greenway west of the Glen Road/Miracle Mile intersection rests in part on the potential development of Iron Horse Park, a planned 660,000-square-foot retail, office and industrial space on 92 acres.

If developed, the project would include a new road linking Route 4 through the development to Route 12A. Glen Road would become a cul-de-sac or one-way road, Coats noted, allowing it to function as part of the Greenway and connect to Riverside Community Park near the Powerhouse Mall.

A spur trail from there would allow Greenway users to access the mall area or continue north on the main trail to Seminary Hill.

The Iron Horse site, owned by Twin State Sand and Gravel, was first approved by the Lebanon Planning Board in 2012, but it would require millions of dollars in necessary infrastructure improvements and so far has failed to attract a developer.

In March, the Planning Board voted, 6-2, to grant the project a two-year extension, even after several members questioned its viability.

“That phase of the Greenway is basically in a state of limbo until the Iron Horse project is resolved,” Coats said.

Even if that process continues to drag, Gould would like to in the meantime see an improved path connecting Riverside Park to Powerhouse Mall.

“There’s a path already there, but it needs to be upgraded,” he said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.