Hartford Trail Project Gets Grant

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2017 11:57:25 PM
Modified: 10/20/2017 11:57:36 PM

White River Junction — It’s been a week of ups and downs for a group of residents working to build a walking trail that would link the Latham Works Lane neighborhood with downtown White River Junction.

Community organizer Cat Buxton said spirits were lifted by a grant from Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering that will allow preliminary engineering to be done at no cost. But that boost was tempered by the news that one of the landowners in the planned trail’s path currently is against the idea.

A group of trail supporters, including Selectman Simon Dennis, who lives in the neighborhood, say the trail would give residents a practical and beautiful path to the downtown area by guiding walkers past a set of railroad tracks and along the confluence of the White and Connecticut rivers. Right now, residents have to backtrack a half-mile to exit the neighborhood at Nutt Lane, the only legal way in and out of the neighborhood, to get to Main Street.

“In the spring, I applied to Thayer to have the River Walk Trail be a student engineering project,” Buxton said. She said the school waived a $5,000 application fee usually assessed to corporate applicants for the services. “We were not only given the full waiver, but we were also given five students to do the engineering. They’re really enthusiastic.”

Buxton said the engineering students are actively taking measurements and performing land surveys, and will spend the winter months using that information to devise an engineering plan and talk to stakeholders such as the railroad company.

But Jennifer Lamoureux, who owns an acre and a half that extends from her home all the way to the riverbank, said she has concerns about the safety of the path, and what she perceives to be a disregard for those concerns.

“The middle section of their proposed plan is on my land,” she said. “It’s still my land, as far as I know. I’m still paying taxes on it.”

Lamoureux said she was approached by one of the organizers three or four years ago, and she said at the time that she had concerns about increasing foot traffic through the backyard, where she currently enjoys her privacy.

The land is a popular camping site for transients, she said, and she worries that more traffic will just bring more illicit tents, and possible crime, to the neighborhood.

Buxton said trail supporters have not had more extensive discussions with Lamoureux at this stage, because the project is not far enough along.

“We’re really theoretical still,” she said. “The problem parts of the trail aren’t worth addressing yet.”

Buxton said she understands and agrees that security concerns will need to be addressed. She also said that the trail could be plotted along an alternate path that would take users past Lamoureux’s property on Latham Works Lane, rather than along the river at that juncture.

“Maybe, with this conversation, I’ll be motivated to knock on her door now,” Buxton said. “Maybe I should have communicated with her, and I intend to.”

Buxton said the trail likely would have a positive effect on the number of transients in the neighborhood, because it would morph the area from a place of neglect into an actively managed space.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

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