Firm hired to study Groton-Townsend trail
By Hiroko Sato,

GROTON -- The project to create a 3.3-mile bike/walk trail between West Groton and Townsend is one-step closer to reality after a special task force and the town of Groton hired an engineering firm to conduct a feasibility study.

The Squannacook Rail Trail Committee and the town of Groton announced Thursday that they have both selected Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, a Burlington-based engineering company, to conduct a preliminary environmental and engineering study of the trail. The company has experience of designing both the Nashua River Rail Trail in Ayer, Groton, Pepperell and Dunstable and the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail in Nashua, N.H.

The proposed 3.3-mile trail would run along the abandoned railroad tracks between the Bertozzi Wildlife Management area near Route 119 in Groton and Depot Street in the center of Townsend. After some area residents expressed interest in creating a trail there, Bill Rideout and Steve Meehan, both of Townsend, formed the Squannacook River Trail Committee in 2002. The committee now has members from Townsend and Groton, including Groton Selectmen Chairman Peter Cunningham, Groton Trails Committee member Bruce Easom and Al Futterman, who serves as the land programs and outreach director for the Nashua River Watershed Association.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation awarded a $20,000 grant to the committee in October for the feasibility study on the Townsend portion of the trail, and Groton Fall Town Meeting approved allocating $10,000 in Community Preservation Act money for the same study on the Groton portion.

The study will address various issues, including potential environmental and business impact, parking and road crossings, safety, and abutter concerns. Assessment of the failing culvert at the trail site behind Harbor Village Shopping Center and a preliminary needs assessment of screening and barriers for abutting residences on Main Street are part of the study, as well.

The study is expected to start next month and should be completed in six months, Rideout said yesterday.