Nashua Riverwalk: French-Canadian heritage

In my opinion, Nashua’s best river walk is the unpaved trail along the Nashua River in Mine Falls Park. I give credit to the city anyway for efforts to create an official “Riverwalk” linking Mine Falls and the area behind the old mills east of Main Street. One feature along the way is the city’s tribute to the early-20th-century French-Canadian mill workers.

Parc de Notre Renaissance Francais is tucked into a parking lot just off Main Street, between Water Street and the river. Along with the millworker statue are several plaques offering some information about the influence French-Canadian immigrants have had on Nashua’s industrial and cultural history.

If you’ve never seen this nearly-hidden bit of art and history, take a few minutes to visit it when you’re in town for the Nashua Holiday Stroll on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.

All photos in this post by Ellen Kolb.

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Good days in Mine Falls Park

As the Granite State Walker blog turns 10 this month, I’m looking back at some of my favorite southern New Hampshire destinations. Today’s gallery: ¬†Mine Falls Park in Nashua. This urban park is accessible from the Everett Turnpike (exit 5W, or 5E to Simon Street), Stellos Stadium, Lincoln Park, the Millyard downtown, or 7th Street off Ledge Street. If you live near Nashua and you haven’t explored this park yet, do yourself a favor and get out there!

 

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Two boat launches serve the park, including this one outside Conway Arena.

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The dam at Mine Falls.

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This path edges the millpond, home to heron and beaver.

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A short history of the park.

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Muskrats love the Mine Falls canal. The  canal, nearby Nashua River, and millyard cove are great areas for observing birds and wildlife.

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In the winter, I bring my snowshoes.

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A memorial to a fallen Nashua-area Marine graces the walkway leading to the Mine Falls playing fields.

Roadside stops

I’ve found some fine little places to walk on the spur of the moment, pulling my car over into little parks and waysides. These walks aren’t long. I stop for them impulsively when I’m pressed for time, driving from point A to point B on some kind of business. Some wayside stops are too good to pass up. They help me clear my head for the next business meeting.

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Runnell’s Bridge over Nashua River, Hollis NH.

There’s a little boat launch on the Nashua River just off NH 111 in Hollis. I parked here one day and took an unscheduled quick stroll on a nearby road, ending with a minute or two just enjoying the riverside. That hadn’t been on the day’s agenda, which was half the fun of stopping.

Here’s to quick stops and interrupted schedules. They can make my day.

Nashua River Rail Trail spring update

Conditions on the Nashua River Rail Trail are pretty good for the second week of April, especially in view of the exceptionally cold and snowy winter we had here in New England. I scouted a couple of parking areas and then walked the stretch between MA 113 in Pepperell and Sand Hill Road in Groton.

The trees aren’t yet in bud, so the river was the star of the show today.

Nashua River in Pepperell, Massachusetts, April 2015

Nashua River in Pepperell, Massachusetts, April 2015

Parking areas:

  • Gilson Road, Nashua: gate is open; ice and snow cover half the lot but about 20 parking spaces are clear and open.
  • NH Route 111-A at Nashua/Hollis line: plenty of roadside parking.
  • State line at Dracut: lots of snow was plowed into the far side of the lot, leaving room for three or four cars.
  • MA Route 113 in East Pepperell: clear and open.
  • Sand Hill Road, Groton: a snow pile covers about half the lot, but there’s still room for about ten cars.

Trail surfaces:

  • Pepperell: some patches of ice and snow, which should be gone soon with a few more 50-degree days.
  • Groton: mostly snow-covered between town line and Sand Hill Road. About three inches of well-trodden soft snow make for an uneven surface, but it’s certainly passable on foot.

It’s the beginning of another beautiful season on the NRRT. I’m looking forward to it.

Ice cream shop is open on Nashua River Rail Trail

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I was surprised to find that the ice cream stand near the trail in Pepperell is open! The young man at the window told me it’s their first day of the season.

The trail between the NH/MA state line and MA113 is in good shape. Trail maintainers have cut & cleared all the trees damaged over the winter. It’s too early for wildflowers yet along the trail, but it’s a good time for birdwatching since the hardwoods haven’t leafed out yet. The Dunstable Coke machine is in action for the first time this spring. (If you ever walk the Nashua River Rail Trail between the state line and Pepperell, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) I picked a good day for my first 2013 trip to the trail.

The parking lot in Nashua at Gilson Road, the southern end of the rail trail, is open. It had been chained off as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Watch out for a pair of Canada geese scouting out the ponds near the Dunstable-Pepperell line. I had to back off briefly when one stood in the middle of the trail & hissed at me. The pair moved away eventually.

Nashua Riverwalk pushes east

Nashua’s Riverwalk is coming online piece by piece, as most trails do. I took a quick break from the job hunt this morning to check out the new stretch, extending from the library to the RR bridge behind BAE Systems. The bridge is a prize, providing one of the city’s few safe pedestrian crossings of the Nashua River.

The RR bridge still has an active line, and it has long been a probably-illegal and certainly dangerous river crossing for intrepid pedestrians. A walkway and the rail line now share the bridge, with a fence and a railing defining the walkway. Not exactly a bridge to nowhere, its full value won’t be realized until the Riverwalk is complete along both sides of the river near Main Street. My guess is that most of the current users are the lunchtime runners from BAE.

For now, a stairway behind the library leads to a flat path along the south side of the river. The view at the dam, unremarkable now, will probably be quite a draw for Riverwalk visitors in the spring. Spring floods will undoubtedly leave part of this path underwater for days at a time. Five minutes of walking brought me to the bridge.

Crossing the river put me into the parking lot between BAE & Margarita’s – not exactly a scenic wonder. I hoped there might be a trail open along the north side of the river, but no such luck. Returning to the library meant either retracing steps or going ahead via the rail line, Main Street, & Pearson Avenue.

For safety, I’d rate this a daytime-only path for solo walkers for now. I’d love to see this get as much traffic as the paths in Mine Falls Park, and with the eventual completion of the Riverwalk, that may yet happen.

Published accounts of the condition of the Nashua River from 40 years ago make me appreciate all the work that has gone into this project. Bridges are particularly expensive to adapt for pedestrian use. My thanks to the McLean Contributionship, which made a $100,000 grant to get this trail link going.