AMESBURY — Citing Amesbury as a crucial player in linking walking and biking trails with surrounding communities, residents urged municipal councilors last week to continue pursuing missing pieces of the trail network.
"The whole point of these trails in Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport was to have a continuous connection from town to town," said Salisbury Selectman Jerry Klima, who is also a member of the Coastal Trails Coalition. "If any of those links don't happen, the chain is broken."
Klima said Amesbury is looking at two points where connections need to be made in order to complete the network of trails that runs through the three towns.
The first missing piece is a link between a biking and walking path that will be alongside the new Whittier Bridge crossing over the Merrimack River. Public access to the path from Amesbury will be from Old Merrill Street, just east of Interstate 95. Work on the bridge is expected to start next year.
It will also cross Main Street, an already popular biking and walking route that runs along Point Shore and into downtown. The question now is how to connect the two pieces, something Klima said he'd been working on with Amesbury's director of Community and Economic Development Joe Fahey, as well as the state.
"Mass DOT (Department of Transportation) isn't going to connect Main Street to 95; we know that," Klima said. "But if we can come up with the money to design a plan with the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, we can go through the Merrimack Valley Transportation Improvement Plan to secure state and federal money to get it done."
The MVTIP is the same group that secured the funding for the area's existing bike trails.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer said that while the connection is still a possibility, it will have to be looked at by MassDOT as a separate project for financial and scheduling reasons.