NH Seacoast Greenway
The New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway is planned to be a 17-mile off-road, multi-use trail, primarily following abandoned rail corridors through 8 communities from Portsmouth to Seabrook. At each end, the Greenway will connect with existing or planned trails: Maine’s Eastern Trail runs from Kittery to South Portland, while the Border-to-Boston Trail is being developed in segments that will ultimately link Salisbury to Danvers and beyond. In a much larger context, the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway is a link in the East Coast Greenway, a nearly 3,000-mile network of connected trails from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida.
The State of New Hampshire owns the southernmost 4.5 miles of former rail corridor from the Massachusetts state line to the center of Hampton. From Hampton to Portsmouth the corridor is still owned by Pan Am Railways, but this 12-mile section is no longer in use and has been formally abandoned by the railroad company. The State of New Hampshire has funding to acquire the rail corridor (as well as partial funding to convert it to a multi-use trail), and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation is negotiating the acquisition of the corridor from Pan Am. Once acquisition has been completed, the rail trail will be developed and managed by the local communities in partnership with the State.
The Greenway in Portsmouth
In Portsmouth, the Greenway route follows the “Hampton Branch” corridor from Barberry Lane 3.6 miles south to the Greenland town line. Its northern mile will provide a safe and pleasant off-road connection between the Plains and the Essex Street neighborhood, where walkers and bicyclists can choose lower-stress streets to get to the West End and the Downtown. South of Route 33, the path will travel through the natural areas of the Great Bog and provide access to outer residential areas by crossings at Banfield and Ocean Roads.
The City has been setting aside funds in its Capital Improvement Plan since 2013 for construction of the rail trail. Once the right-of-way has been acquired, it is anticipated that the Portsmouth portion of the trail will be constructed in phases, beginning with the 0.8-mile segment between Barberry Lane and Route 33.
Visualizing the Future Greenway
To assist residents to understand the future potential of the rail corridor, the Planning Department has been developing visualizations of locations along the corridor.
The image below shows how the rail trail (crossing from left to right) will relate to Route 33 and the planned recreational field at the former “stump dump”. In this view, Liberty Mutual and the Portsmouth Regional Hospital are in the upper right corner, and Calvary Cemetery is in the lower center. Bicyclists and pedestrians will be able to access the trail via a driveway from Route 33 to the recreational field parking lot. In addition, the Planning Department is working on a proposal for access from Route 33 eastbound through state conservation land to an existing maintenance crossing (lower left corner of the view). These access points, and other crossings on Banfield and Ocean Road, will make it possible for cyclists and walkers to travel off-road from outlying neighborhoods to Barberry Lane, and then choose lower-traffic streets to head to the West End and Downtown.
Examples of other rail trails
Another way to visualize what the Greenway can do for Portsmouth residents is to look at similar rail-to-trail conversions throughout the region and the nation.