Many of you may know Frank Gould, Co-Chair (with Paul Coats) of the MRG project, friendly MRG promoter at the Leb Farmers Market, and someone working hard to solve the problem of access at both ends of our Mascoma River Greenway . . . trying to make connections
The river twists itself,
coiled like an upset snake
beneath the railtrail bridge.
I watch it slither away,
beyond the oaks and maples
which shadow grasslands,
after slipping east through
neighborhoods and woods.
I walk beyond the bridge
along the rail corridor
where trains at one time
carried freight, passengers
and American life into
the valleys of our village.
Today, the trains are gone.
Its corridor is transformed,
derailed, cleared and paved;
a greenway to give locals
access to their community,
to their health, to their self,
to their American life.
Today they find this path
for comfort and calm,
for daily, scenic exercise.
They stroll their new-born;
bicycle with their kids;
walk to a grocery store
and home with filled bags.
They’ve found their walk
or ski to movies, to eat out,
or to their jobs and back.
Rush-hour traffic absent.
They visit friends they meet,
talk about the friendly walk,
and wonder why the trail
closes at dysfunction junction?
Why shopping malls exist
only well beyond trail’s end?
How might we reach out, they
ask, to unfold our community?
Frank Gould 2017
From Sunday September 24 Valley News
By Tim Camerato
Valley News Staff Writer
Summer work should allow cyclists, runners and walkers to make use of the 4-mile path that will connect downtown and West Lebanon, said Frank Gould, who is co-chairman of the volunteer group working on the greenway. But the results of a downtown visioning survey could mean the path shares the roads downtown rather than going through a discontinued rail tunnel.
“I personally believe it is not a safe thing to do in the downtown area,” Gould said of possible road-sharing plans. “I think most of my committee agrees with that.”
Gould has been working on the greenway’s construction since leaving the state Legislature about four years ago. The idea’s been kicked around for decades, he said, but it wasn’t until the state offered use of an east-west railroad bed that work could begin.
Working alongside the city’s recreation and parks department, volunteers held workdays along the trail and raised more than $2.3 million for construction and paving.
Gould said their mission is to allow for easier movement between downtown and West Lebanon without having to worry about traffic or main roads. When Lebanon first became a city more than 50 years ago, he said, pedestrians didn’t have any easy options to go between the two neighborhoods, and that’s a challenge the city is still facing today.
“It’s going to tie our community from east to west,” Gould said.
Regardless of what the city decides for downtown, the proposed trail will begin where the Northern Rail Trail ends at Spencer Street. From there, it will follow the railroad bed, cross the Mascoma River several times and will come to an end near Seminary Hill. Paving is slated to begin next year, and the city has committed to plowing one side and will set cross-country ski tracks on the other.
But proposals for Lebanon’s downtown could hamper the greenway’s goal of being a separate space for pedestrians and cyclists. Of three alternative plans, only one allows for use of the rail tunnel.
Lebanon’s visioning study was introduced partially because, in 2014, the tunnel was dilapidated and in need of repairs. A city-owned parking lot above the tunnel was closed that fall and the city signed a contract for more than $300,000 with Massachusetts-based consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin to seek input about the future of downtown.
Working hand-in-hand, consultants and officials hosted a series of community discussions and released an online survey. More than 800 comments were gathered, which allowed the consultants to create three alternatives for downtown.
All three were shown to the public during a February meeting, according to Lebanon Planning and Zoning Director David Brooks. But even with all of the comments, the city still doesn’t feel that there’s a preferred option that most people feel comfortable with, he said.
Brooks said the city put consultants in a “holding pattern” and are asking people to participate in a second survey. He’s also making presentations and giving updates to city boards and businesses.
Gould is hoping that residents will respond to the survey and choose to keep the rail tunnel.
“The tunnel is paramount for safe transit through downtown Lebanon,” he said.
People can find the survey on the city’s website at planning.lebnh.net. Brooks is also scheduled to speak about visioning at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Planning Board meeting in the City Hall Council Chambers.
Volunteers with the Mascoma River Greenway will also be presenting final construction plans from 5:30 to 7 p.m on April 7 in the City Hall Council Chambers.
Tim Camerato can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.
It was a hot, hot day, yet there they were at the Lebanon Farmers Market, selling raffle tickets and answering questions about the Mascoma River Greenway!