Thanks to dozens of volunteers, a grant and town money, Brookside Park is now home to a new, ADA-accessible bridge and trail.
The project, spearheaded by the Grantham Conservation Commission, is “a testament to what government can actually get done at a grass-roots level,” said commission member Laura Nagy, who described the process in a telephone interview and emails.
The wooded 20-acre park is on Route 10, a few minutes’ drive north of Exit 13 on Interstate 89. Much of the park, which was expanded in 2014, was accessible only by small footbridges crossing Skinner Brook. After the bridges washed out during Tropical Storm Irene, the land could be reached “only by rock-hopping, and not at all during times of high water,” Nagy said.
At Town Meeting in 2015, voters approved $2,500 toward replacing a footbridge over the brook in the park, and the Conservation Commission, which oversees town-owned land, was charged with getting the new bridge in place.
The commission worked with the Student Conservation Association to coordinate its role in the project, and the town contracted with the nonprofit to do the work, Nagy said.
Rather than machines, volunteers from the organization used muscle power, cables, ropes and pulleys to move the beams from the parking lot, across the brook, and up onto footers, she said.
“It was amazing to see the teamwork.”
Later, SCA volunteers camped for two weeks in a field next to Town Hall while they built the 427-foot-long trail, which runs along the brook and to an overlook.
“They have done a beautiful trail,” Nagy said.
The volunteers are part of the SCA New Hampshire AmeriCorps Program, a 10-month residential program for people ages 18-25 that includes leadership, skills and safety training.
Using rigging equipment to pull and lift the I-beams into place was great hands-on training for the volunteers, said Matt Coughlan, conservation service coordinator with the program. And building the wheelchair-accessible trail “really helped us dial in all the trail-building skills we’ve learned, from start to finish.”
New Hampshire AmeriCorps is doing more and more ADA trail work every year, and he said he’d like to see more communities build facilities such as Grantham’s.
“I think it’s a really positive trend,” he said. “Everyone deserves the right to get out into nature, and we try to make that happen.”
Dick Hocker, chairman of the Conservation Commission, estimates that the total volunteer time for the project was close to 1,000 hours.