Bridge-builder Helen Closson, RIP

This morning’s newspaper carries news of the passing of Helen Closson of Manchester, New Hampshire at the age of 94. The headline describes her as “a force for good.” The long list of her civic activities bears this out. As a Granite State walker, I will always think of her as the woman who brought us the Hands Across the Merrimack pedestrian bridge over the Merrimack River in Manchester.

Hands Across the Merrimack (and Manchester)

The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge. Ellen Kolb photo.

The bridge is a gem, pleasant in itself, all the more valuable for its setting along a rail trail that now stretches from the south end of the Millyard well into Goffstown.

Turning an abandoned rail trestle into a pedestrian walkway is a team effort, and my gratitude for the bridge ought to be extended to many people. Mrs. Closson, though, was the team leader who saw the project through to the end.

I appreciate the gift.

manchester-from-hands-across-the-merrimack

Manchester, New Hampshire, as seen from the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge over the Merrimack River.

 

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Another NH rail trail link completed: Manchester-Goffstown

The Singer family's behind many philanthropic efforts in the Manchester area. It's fitting that the bridge carries the Singer name.

The Singer family’s behind many philanthropic efforts in the Manchester area. It’s fitting that the bridge carry the Singer name.

New Hampshire’s Piscataquog Rail Trail finally reaches across the Piscataquog River, connecting Manchester with Goffstown. I put off some workday tasks long enough to walk the trail from its east end all the way across the new bridge. With all due respect and gratitude to the many people who made the project happen (Manchester Moves and the Singer family, for starters), I didn’t stay for the ribbon-cutting and speechifyin’. Trails are for walking.

On the Manchester side, looking toward Goffstown, at long last.

On the Manchester side, looking toward Goffstown, at long last.

On the Goffstown side.

On the Goffstown side.

I call this right neighborly.

I call this right neighborly.

It was a good morning to walk along the trail all the way to the Merrimack River flowing past Manchester’s millyard. It’s mid-autumn and the foliage might be considered past peak, but it’s still beautiful as far as I’m concerned.

Second Street bridge, near east end of Piscataquog Rail Trail.

Second Street bridge, near east end of Piscataquog Rail Trail.

The Queen City: Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Queen City: Manchester, New Hampshire.

Amoskeag Falls

Amoskeag Falls, Manchester, NH

Amoskeag Falls, Manchester, NH

New Hampshire’s Heritage Trail is actually a jumble of disconnected paths, many of them near the Merrimack River. I like Manchester’s segment through the Millyard along the Merrimack River. This overlook near the Amoskeag Dam is a fine spot for a brown-bag lunch. Sure, there are restaurants nearby, but for some days, only a view like this will do.

So how can I do a better job on my next visit of making my camera capture what my eye sees? I welcome your comments, as well as your reports of your own favorite Heritage Trail spots.

 
On Amazon: Read a history of Manchester’s Millyard

Over the Merrimack River

I was early for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game a few days ago (that’s baseball, for all you out-of-towners). It’s been too long since my last stroll over the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge, part of the rail trail that begins behind the baseball stadium and extends a couple of miles west along the Piscataquog river, clear over to West Side Arena.

The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge over the Merrimack River, seen from the trail behind Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge over the Merrimack River, seen from the trail behind Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

The bridge should be a good spot for seeing eagles. There’s a nesting pair about a mile south along the river. I’m always driving when I see one, so I’ve never gotten a photo of a bald eagle – but I’ll be in the right place at the right time someday.

Looking south toward the Queen City Avenue bridge.

Looking south toward the Queen City Avenue bridge.

The odd bit of graffiti aside, the bridge is in good shape structurally and aesthetically. And for crossing the Merrimack river, it sure beats dodging the auto traffic on the nearby Granite Street bridge.

Manchester, New Hampshire

Manchester, New Hampshire

View from the west end.

View from the west end.

It's good to see this acknowledgment of one of the people who made the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge project happen.

It’s good to see this acknowledgment of one of the people who made the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge project happen.

Update: Manchester & Goffstown trails to be connected!

See today’s Union Leader, page B1, for great news about rail trail development in greater Manchester.

Three years ago, I wrote about the rail trail that begins at the bridge over the Merrimack River in Manchester, continuing west along the Piscataquog River up to the closed-off trestle over the Piscataquog into Goffstown. I expressed pessimism at the time about any restoration of a pedestrian crossing there.

Well, hush my mouth. Today’s newspaper report says that a new steel bridge will be built alongside the old trestle by the end of this year, thanks to funding from a number of sources. This is great news.

Riverside lunch

View from the Bedford Heritage Trail

This wasn’t exactly a hike – more of a short walk to a picnic table for a quick lunch. The Bedford Heritage Trail doesn’t demand a lot of time, although you could go on a slow mile-long birdwatching walk if you were so inclined.

I took this photo from the picnic area overlooking the Merrimack River and the Moore’s Crossing railroad bridge. It’s only a two-minute walk from the trailhead on Moore’s Crossing Road, off of U.S. 3 (River Road) in Bedford, south of Target/Lowe’s. Check it out. You’ll wonder why on earth you’re parking in a sandy area with a railroad track running across it. Never mind. Your walk starts at the kiosk next to a trash can (not unsightly; thank you, Bedford public works).  Ignore the broken-down tables at the trailhead. Cross a short footbridge, and after a little jog right-then-left, you’ll see the picnic area on the right.

Eagles have been known to nest in the islands you’ll see in the river. I saw a heron today, which is a common sight in southern New Hampshire but a treat nonetheless. The rail bridge is somehow not ugly from this vantage point, despite the graffiti. Perhaps all the trees around me softened the view. The river is low today, reflecting the recent lack of rain.

I work near the trail, and today’s picnic sure beat having lunch at my desk. Employment is great, but my current job is making long hikes pretty much impossible for now. I’ll get out to good spots like this when I can, even for twenty minutes at a time.