A quiet woodland trail along the Squannacook River in Townsend, MA - Photo by Kim King

Greenway Trails: Conservation and Recreation

Recreational opportunities and public access to our rivers are benefits of improved water quality and riverside greenway protection. The creation of riverside parks, hiking trails, and rail trails is a part of NRWA’s work to promote and preserve greenway in our watershed.

Rail Trails

Since 2000, the NRWA has been continuously involved in the Squannacook River Rail Trail (SRRT) project, the goal of which is to build a rail trail along the MBTA owned, but discontinued, Greenville Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad that runs near the Squannacook River. Work on the SRRT is being forwarded by the non-profit organization, Squannacook Greenways.

A quiet woodland trail along the Squannacook River in Townsend, MA - Photo by Kim KingThe SRRT, as proposed, is a 3.7 mile rail trail that would stretch from West Groton to Townsend center, passing by the North Middlesex Regional High School, two shopping centers, historical districts, protected open space, and other key resources; furthermore, it would allow for alternative transportation parallel to, but off of, the heavily trafficked Route 119. There is strong community support for this project and abutter concerns have been considered and addressed.

The NRWA recognizes the unique opportunity such a trail would have to highlight and complement the Squannacook River Greenway, which includes associated state conservation lands. A level and easy-to-navigate linear rail trail is an “entrance pass” to the outdoors for a great many people who would otherwise choose not to venture into the “wilderness”.

The NRWA also played a role in the creation of the Nashua River Rail Trail that runs 11 miles from Ayer, Massachusetts to Nashua, New Hampshire. The paved trail, which officially opened in 2002, is built on the old Hollis Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad. The Hollis Branch was purchased by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (formerly the Department of Environmental Management) in 1987, and the path was built by Mass Highway. The paved trail is open for walking, biking, and cross-country skiing, and includes a seven-mile stretch with an added gravel path for equestrians.

For rail trail recreation information

Riverside Parks

Riverside parks in the watershed’s urban areas have been invaluable in allowing city residents and businesses to revitalize their city centers around the natural beauty of their riverfront. Both Fitchburg, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire have included the Nashua River as a key component in their redevelopment plans. View the North Nashua River Master Plan for Fitchburg and the Nashua, NH Master Plan.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas tours the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail with local advocates - Photo by Bill RideoutThe North Nashua River winds for 7.5 miles through the heart of the City of Fitchburg. Through the efforts of the NRWA, the City, the Fitchburg Greenway Committee, and numerous other entities including the North County Land Trust, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Commonwealth, Fitchburg has been successful in protecting sections of its Greenway and has created three riverside parks for the enjoyment of its citizens. The Steamline Trail Park reminds hikers of the city’s historic link to the river as it begins at the old Central Steam Plant and follows alongside the pipes that once powered Fitchburg mills. Riverfront Park offers a large open space for festivals and community events. Fitchburg’s newest park, Gateway Park, has a trail, recreational space, picnic areas, and community gardens. For more about park and trails in Fitchburg. 

In Nashua, New Hampshire, the Nashua River runs through the center of the old downtown area which is experiencing a strong revival. Mine Falls Park is a 325-acre park bordered by the Nashua River and the Mill Pond and canal, once used for generating power in Nashua’s mills. The park has extensive trails and access to the water for boating and fishing. At the center of the downtown area, the City has created a Riverwalk that extends for stretches on both sides of the river giving visitors views of the river and historic mills, as well as providing pedestrian access to downtown shops, restaurants, and the public library. For more about parks and trails in Nashua.

For more Recreational opportunities throughout the watershed.