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Claremont to Pave Rail Trail ‘Aprons’

Claremont — In a 5-0 vote last night, the Conservation Commission granted permission to the Parks and Recreation Department to pave small sections of the city’s rail trail at the trailhead on Pleasant Street in addition to where the trail crosses Broad Street and Chestnut Street.

The paving of the “aprons” would extend about 20 to 25 feet from each road, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hausler told the commission.

The estimated cost of between $6,000 and $7,000 would come from the Parks and Recreation paving budget, which Hausler said has $50,000.

“This would take care of issues such as gravel getting in the road and also dress up those entrances,” Hausler said.

With the trail becoming a lot more visible, especially the section that runs behind the new community center, “it makes all the sense in the world to enhance that part of the trail system,” Hausler said.

Parks and Recreation has added gravel in sections of the trail to improve drainage.

The commission also briefly discussed holding community meetings this fall to develop a master plan for the trail, which runs nearly three miles from Pleasant Street to where it meets the Sugar River Trail to Newport beyond Home Depot on Washington Street.

Hausler said the goal of the meetings, which could be facilitated by the Upper Valley Trail Alliance or the regional planning commission, would be to discuss how the public wants to see the trail used and what improvements should be made.

Hausler also threw out the suggestion of paving the trail from Pleasant Street to Chestnut Street, something that could be incorporated in a master plan.

One issue that is sure to arise in the discussions is the use of motorized vehicles on the trail.

Resident Jim Feleen attended last night’s meeting and said afterward that the city has not enforced a ban on ATVs, motorbikes and other motorized vehicles, which he said was a condition of the federal money the city obtained to buy the abandoned rail bed more than 20 years ago.

“There is no real enforcement mechanism,” Feleen said. “The feds don’t check and no one in Claremont enforces it. The city may not even be aware of it.

“It is an issue that is festering and has to be addressed in this process,” he added.

A waiver of the prohibition of motorized vehicles is possible, but Feleen said the city has not obtained one.

When the community center was built last year, the short connector that ATVs use between the Arrowhead Recreation Area, across South Street to the rail trail was moved to maintain through access to the trails.

Hausler also said his department may use some of its paving budget at city parks, including Barnes and Arrowhead.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.