Connecting the Lake’s Region Trails
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Donna Hepp, Belmont Recreation Trail Team [email protected] 414-258-3287
Belmont LU Staff – Rick Ball 603-267-8300 ext 125
Working to Connect the Winnipesaukee Regional Rail Trail
The Winnipesaukee Regional Rail Trail from Lakeport to West Franklin has been a Lakes Region priority for over twenty years. There’s a proposal being considered by the Lakes Region Planning Commission to extend the popular Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail another half mile to the south. This proposed intermediate project connects to 4.5 miles of continuous completed paved trail between the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail in Belmont and the WOW Trail in Laconia, extending this trail section to 5 miles. It also helps close the 5 mile gap to reach the completed 5.1 mile Winnipesaukee River section in Tilton and Franklin. The proposed Phase 2 trail segment in Belmont begins at Osborne’s Agway where the existing trail section ends and crosses Route 3 using a new hybrid traffic light for pedestrians and bicycles. From there the proposed route parallels Route 3 and then turns south crossing a wetland area with a 1200 foot raised boardwalk adjacent to the rail road track and ends at Elaine Drive. Federal Highway Transportation Alternative Program funds with matching local funds are proposed for this $1.25 million dollar project. Helical piles will be used to construct the boardwalk section of this scenic route. In addition to extending the existing trail, this project provides safe access to the trail to 1200 residences within one mile of the trail head on Elaine Drive.
Regional rail trails like many outdoor recreation opportunities have seen significant increase in use during the last year. The Winnipesaukee River Trail section reports a 100% increase in trail use in 2020. The full 20-mile Winnipesaukee Regional Rail Trail envisioned by Laconia, Belmont, Tilton and Franklin connects to the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail in West Franklin. The Winnipesaukee Regional Rail Trail offers an outstanding recreation opportunity for local residents as well as drawing visitors to the Lakes Region. A 2019 Study by Alta Planning found that this 20 mile regional trail would generate additional visitor spending of $6 million annually and 40 to 60 permanent new jobs, $500,00 yearly in room and meals tax as well as mobility, health and safety benefits. Alta Planning projected a 20 year net total benefit of the completed trail to reach between $67 million and $89 million. Regional trail networks across America draw large numbers of visitors as a destination and increase property values along the corridor.
While not fully completed, the Towns, trail groups, and dedicated volunteers engaged in building the Winnipesaukee Regional Rail Trail sections for decades are working hard to close the gap and join the trail together. “Some of us started working on this 30 years ago. We’d like to see the trail fully connected”,said Ron Mitchell, Chair of Belmont’s Trail Team. This federal funding is only available every other year, so this is an important opportunity for the Lakes Region. For more information on this proposed addition to Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail, contact the Town of Belmont Land Use Department.