New Trails Open Up the North Shore

The new Ghost Trail underpass beneath Interstate 95 in Amesbury, photographed in July 2020.
The new Ghost Trail underpass beneath Interstate 95 in Amesbury, photographed in July 2020.

In recent years, the North Shore communities of Amesbury, Salisbury, and Newburyport have been building out a robust network of off-street pathways that connect downtown areas, transit stops, and scenic areas.

The towns’ network of trails grew significantly in 2018, when MassDOT opened a new path alongside the rebuilt Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River. That trail – now known as the William Lloyd Garrison Trail – connected Route 110 on the Salisbury-Amesbury border to Ferry Road and a commuter park-and-ride lot in Newburyport.

The same year, Newburyport completed the eastern section of its Clipper City Rail Trail, which circumnavigates the city’s downtown neighborhoods in a 3.3 mile horseshoe.

These trails, in addition to the older Ghost Trail and Eastern Marsh Trail in Salisbury, and the Riverwalk rail trail in Amesbury, have become important links for recreation and transportation, but gaps between them have, until recently, prevented them from functioning as a true network.

New trail connections (highlighted in red) will link the downtown areas of Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport to the MBTA's northernmost commuter rail stop and to the town of Seabrook in New Hampshire. Map courtesy of the Coastal Trails Coalition.
New trail connections (highlighted in red) will link the downtown areas of Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport to the MBTA’s northernmost commuter rail stop and to the town of Seabrook in New Hampshire. Map courtesy of the Coastal Trails Coalition.

That began to change this summer, though, with several new projects that are under construction or nearly complete.

  • In Amesbury, contractors recently finished a half-mile extension of the Ghost Trail with a new underpass under Interstate 95 (pictured at the top of this post). The project also built a short roadside link along Rabbit Road to connect the Ghost Trail to the newer William Lloyd Garrison Trail over the Merrimack River. That link connects a continuous 3.8-mile off-street route from western Newburyport to Lions Park in the center of Salisbury. To the west, a short gap remains between the new terminus of the Ghost Trail at Elm Street and the Amesbury Riverwalk, which extends into downtown Amesbury. Amesbury officials are working on plans to fill that remaining half-mile gap.
  • Users of those same trails will soon be able to walk or ride all the way to the New Hampshire border by way of an extended Eastern Marsh Trail, currently under construction. The existing Eastern Marsh Trail, south of Salisbury’s town center, nearly connects to downtown Newburyport and the Clipper City Rail Trail by way of the Route 1 bridge (which, incidentially, has plenty of space for widened sidewalks and protected bike lanes). This trail is still under construction (pictured below, in July), but segments could open to bike and pedestrian traffic before the end of this year.
    Construction on the Eastern Marsh Trail in Salisbury, pictured in July 2020. The project will connect Salisbury's riverfront on the Merrimack River to the New Hampshire border.
    Construction on the Eastern Marsh Trail in Salisbury, pictured in July 2020. The project will connect Salisbury’s riverfront on the Merrimack River to the New Hampshire border.

     

  • The same construction contract that built the Ghost Trail extension in Amesbury also recently finished a new public staircase from the Amesbury Visitor’s Center, on Main Street, to the William Lloyd Garrison Trail on the Whittier Bridge.
  • And this fall, the City of Newburyport won a MassDOT complete streets grant to close the loop of the Clipper City Rail Trail along Parker Street near the commuter rail station. The project will build a new shared-use pathway along Parker Street between the Route 1 rotary and the Oak Hill Cemetery. In a separate project scheduled for 2021, MassDOT will upgrade the rotary to add traffic calming measures, new crosswalks, and widened sidewalks along its northern edge, which will connect to an existing trail segment between the rotary and the commuter rail station.

The Coastal Trails Coalition is also involved in planning for more trail projects south of Newburyport to provide a continuous trail connection through the more rural communities of Byfield, Georgetown, Boxford, and Topsfield. Along with ongoing work on the Northern Strand Pathway in Everett, Saugus, and Lynn, these new trail links constitute new connections in the proposed Border to Boston trail and the larger East Coast Greenway, an envisioned off-street pathway between Maine and Florida.

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