Durham’s new greenway trail will open up a large network of local trails with the addition of a new bridge. Normally, those wanting to access trails from town would need to drive to individual trailheads all over. This new project is not only a more environmentally friendly solution, but makes accessing the many trails our community has to offer that much easier.
Currently, there is a very exciting project going on in Stevens Woods, the newest property acquired by the town of Durham. This property is located right behind Orchard Drive off of Mill Road and runs alongside the Oyster River. A 0.3 mile trail was constructed on the property which connects to the greenway trail. The trails it will connect to include popular trails such as East Foss Farm, NH Fish and Game’s Beaudette property, and the many trails on Bennett Road.
This project was based on a concept by both Dennis Meadows, a former UNH professor, and John Nachilly, a member of both the Durham Conservation Commission and the Durham Land Stewardship Committee. Meadows had the idea for a bridge that would connect downtown to miles of trails, where Nachilly had an idea for the greenway trail. “I defined the trail route, and worked with Ellen Snyder Durham’s Land Stewardship Coordinator to coordinate volunteer days to construct the Stevens Woods trail portion,” said Nachilly
“This will offer a greenway option for getting from downtown to Doe Farm, rather than having to drive and park at the Doe Farm Parking lot,” said Nachilly. Currently, the trail is usable but it will be fully completed within the next year.
In order to access this new trail, a new 100 foot aluminum pedestrian bridge has been constructed over the Oyster River. “It will be named the Kenny Rotner bridge, after a Durham resident, a physician, who was very active in public affairs. He was on the town council, he was on the School Board, and he did many other things for the town, but he died of cancer late last year. It was decided by the town council to name the bridge after him,” said Meadows.
The Kenny Rotner bridge is vital for allowing people from downtown to access the trail. The bridge, which has already gotten a lot of use, was built at the end of Thompson Lane on the Stevens Woods Property, a process Meadows has been in charge of. Although this bridge is very beneficial to the community, a lot of money went into building it.
According to the town of Durham website, “funds for the aluminum bridge and abutments, engineering, permits, and related costs are primarily from private donations and grants, including an $80,000 grant from the NH State Trails Program.” The total cost of the bridge and construction is going to end up being around $260,000 explained Meadows.
The land, previously owned by ORCSD, was either going to be sold for conservation purposes, or to developers. Community members wrote a letter to the ORCSD expressing their concerns about the land being sold to developers. Malin Clyde, a resident of Orchard Drive and a member of the Durham Land Stewardship Committee explained that many people in her neighborhood had been crossing the parcel to access the UNH trails beyond it.
In 2019, Clyde got 12 others in her neighborhood to sign the letter requesting a trail easement. “When the school board received the letter, they started discussions about the land, and Meadows proposed the idea of protecting the entire parcel and using the land as a way to connect both sides of the Oyster River with a foot bridge,” she said.
In 2019, the ORCSD decided that if Durham wanted to conserve the land and use it for recreational purposes then they would sell it to them for half of the appraised value at $150,000. This was an agreement that was negotiated by Meadows.
Clyde has been a major part of the fundraising for the land. She has been working on raising money and coming up with a plan for the trail to go over the Oyster River. She has worked to fundraise for many other projects for the Durham Land Stewardship Committee, and most of the money comes from private donations. “It is pretty amazing how generous people are, especially for trails. People get excited about it,” Clyde said.
This has been a collaborative project by many organizations such as the Durham Land Stewardship Committee, UNH, NH Fish and Game, and Eversource. All of these groups have helped out with maintaining the network of local trails and constructing the new ones. The town of Durham has an easement deal with the UNH, which allows UNH to access their MacDonald property more easily using the Stevens Woods land. Clyde explained the importance of collaborating with other people for these projects. This is key because if there isn’t that collaboration, then people who own different properties could be working on different things on the same trail.
According to the Town of Durham website, “Eversource provided a $5,000 grant to the Town as part of their Seacoast Reliability project, which will be used to build a trail bridge across the LaRoche Brook on NHFG’s Beaudette parcel off Bennett Road.” The new bridge across LaRoche Brook is at the end of the greenway trail and will connect to the other trails on Bennett Road. Nachilly, along with NH Fish and Game, NH Department of Environmental Services, and Eversource have all been working to construct this bridge.
Clyde is very excited about what it will offer. “This means that all the people from the faculty neighborhood and downtown will be able to go on this huge number of trails that are owned by UNH and Fish and Game, and the Town,” she said.
Corum Nichols (‘21), a Durham resident said, “[The greenway trail project] would be helpful because so many trails can be more easily accessed for recreational activities by the different members of the community, helping us connect and get into the outdoors at the same time.”
Be sure to check out the newly completed Kenny Rotner bridge and the network of trails it provides access to the next time you’re in downtown Durham.