The RPC region features several abandoned railroad corridors that are in various stages of development as rail trails. These include the Eastern Railroad/Hampton Branch that will carry the East Coast Greenway through New Hampshire, the Rockingham Recreation Trail extending from Newfields to Manchester, and the Manchester & Lawrence line carrying the Southern NH Rail Trail from Salem to Manchester. A broader collaborative effort seeks to use the developing NH Seacoast Greenway as a spine route to connect multiple local trail, with a goal of an interconnected regional trail network that can be a major active recreation destination. Smaller trail efforts have included the Pease Multi-Use Path improving safe bicycle access to Pease Tradeport.
East Coast Greenway/NH Seacoast Greenway
RPC leads regional efforts to develop the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway - New Hampshire’s segment of the East Coast Greenway (ECG). The East Coast Greenway is envisioned as a multi-use “urban Appalachian trail” running nearly 3,000 miles and connecting cities, towns and natural areas on the eastern seaboard from Canada to Key West. The NHSG will be a community asset offering a safe place for children, seniors, and all members of the community to exercise, learn to ride a bike, enjoy nature, or simply get where they need to go without a car. RPC work with a regional advisory committee made up of corridor community representatives and other stakeholders collaborating to plan and develop the trail. Planning assistance has included trail design, crafting trail management agreements, building coalitions to secure trail funding, and working with local advocates to develop local volunteer trail management organizations.
The Seacoast Trails Initiative seeks to build on the proposed NH Seacoast Greenway and use that rail trail as a trunk route connecting multiple local trail networks used by walkers, mountain bikers, and equestrians to form an interconnected regional trails network. Similar regional trails networks like the Jackson XC ski trail system in Jackson, NH or Kingdom Trails Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, are major economic engines for their regions, drawing active recreation enthusiasts from around the northeast and beyond. RPC provides technical assistance with mapping and trail planning.
Southern New Hampshire Rail Trail
On the western side of Rockingham County the Southern NH Rail Trail extends from Salem north through Windham, Derry and Londonderry, and north to Concord. RPC has had limited involvement in the SNHRT, though worked with the Town of Salem to secure its initial CMAQ funding for trail engineering. Eventually the SNHRT is envisioned to connect to the Northern Rail Trail in Goffstown and extend all the way to Lebanon, forming the Granite State Rail Trail.
The Rockingham Recreation Trail’s Portsmouth Branch extends 26.5 miles from Newfields west to Massabesic Lake in Manchester. A second leg under combined management extends from Fremont to Windham. Both corridors are managed by the State Trails Bureau. RPC staff are not involved in planning initiatives related to the trail, though there is increasing interest among trails groups in making interregional connections, connecting Seacoast trails to Manchester and point south and north.