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$40k donated to maintain Rail Trail

  • A view of the Mason Rail Trail from horseback, taken by Deb Morrison.  Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Snow is falling on the Mason Rail Trail, turning it from a popular walking path to a popular snowmobiling track. And with a generous donation to keep up trail maintenance, damage from a late October rainstorm won’t be able to keep winter sportsman off the trail.

The Mason Conservation Commission usually has a $2,000 annual budget to keep the trail in shape, said Conservation Commission member Barbara Devore in an interview Friday. So, when this fall they were awarded $40,000 from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, funded by the Preston Family Trust, it was a boon.

“The rail trail is extensively used by walkers, joggers, snowmobilers and horseback riders,” said Devore. “It’s a safe place to be and relatively flat. Any time I’ve been on it, I inevitably meet other walkers or hikers. It's something of one of the town’s hidden assets.”

Ann Preston is a former Mason resident and member of the Conservation Commission, and has many fond memories of the Rail Trail said Devore, and wanted to support it even after moving to Peterborough in 1994.

“I lived on a small dirt road that went down to the Rail Trail. It was right in our neighborhood,” recalled Preston in an interview on Friday. “You could walk, or cross-country ski. There was a pond, where we would go to see the birds.”

Though it’s been years since she lived in Mason, said Preston, she lived there for 20 years, and often thought of the Rail Trail when walking on other area trails.

The Preston Fund had originally been conceived with the idea of preserving land, said Preston, but since has expanded to more generally assist in funding things that help people enjoy the outdoors. The Rail Trail seemed a good candidate, she said. She contacted the Conservation Commission to see if they would be willing to do the work on the trail, if she made the donation.

That decision was easy to make, said Devore. 

The donation came at a fortuitous time, said Devore, because the trail saw several instances of damage this fall due to washouts – including washouts that compromised the underpinnings of the bridge over Black Brook on Russell Road, and gullies created north of Pratt Pond Road due to an overflow from a nearby swampy area washing the trail into the pond were both able to be repaired before winter set in, using those donated funds.

“If it had not, it would have been a huge impediment to snowmobiles,” said Devore, who said the local snowmobile club, the Winter Wanderers, also contributed to the repair of the Pratt Pond Road section of the trail. 

But aside from emergency maintenance, said Devore, the money will also be going to fix an ongoing problem spot on the southern half of the trail, where the ditching has diminished over the years, causing flooding during rain events.

“If that isn’t rectified, sooner or later, we’re going to lose that section of the trail,” said Devore.

There are a few other spots on the trail that will also have ditchwork done, and the entire seven miles of the Mason portion of the trail will be graded with a new crushed stone surface, and brushwork and mowing done on the sides of the trail. 

It’s the kind of maintenance the Commission would have liked to see on the trail, but couldn’t afford to do, said Devore.

“We would never have been able to do that if it weren’t for that money,” she said. “This town treasure will be fully restored.”

Devore said the town plans to finish the trail’s restoration by fall, in time to re-dedicate the trail at the height of Mason’s 250th town anniversary celebrations.