NEWBURYPORT — Under construction since last summer, the 1.1 mile-long Clipper City Rail Trail connecting the MBTA commuter rail station to the Merrimack River in downtown Newburyport is scheduled to open early 2010 or sooner.

When it opens, the trail will require ongoing maintenance and stewardship. To raise funds for this effort, the first annual Happy Rail Trails Texas Barbecue and Fundraiser will be held on Friday, July 3, from 5 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased by e-mailing lindab@doloresperson.com or calling 978-992-4526.

Hosted by Dolores and Richard Person, the Happy Rail Trails Texas Barbecue and Fundraiser will be held at the historic 1797 William Bartlett House at 19 Federal St. in Newburyport. Guests will enjoy an authentic Texas barbecue with all the fixings from American Barbecue in Rowley, and appetizers from Joseph's Winter Street Café in Newburyport. In addition to dancing to live music provided by the band Memorial Drive, a silent auction will offer enticing items, such as a Chanel gift basket, gift certificates to the Plum Island Grill and Ten Center Restaurant, golf at the Ipswich Country Club and more.

Happy Rail Trails Texas Barbecue and Fundraiser is sponsored by Stone Ridge Properties, DNSStuff.com, The Tannery, Institution for Savings and Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. The nonprofit City Improvement Society will hold funds raised at the event. The long-term goal is to build an endowment for care and maintenance of the rail trail once it opens to the public.

The 1.1-mile, 10-foot wide asphalt Clipper City Rail Trail will create a safe, attractive and vibrant new public space that will provide the public with a safe and appealing off-road corridor for walkers, joggers, bicyclists and other nonmotorized users.

The multiuse trail, including a new pedestrian bridge over Low Street, will carve its way down the existing railroad embankment and connect directly with the growing Harborwalk along the Merrimack River. The trail will connect such local institutions and attractions as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail station, Haley's Ice Cream, the MetroRock North Indoor Rock Climbing Center, the Graf Skating Rink, Cashman Park, as well as bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants that are a short distance from the trail, and the Merrimack River shoreline.

The Clipper City Rail Trail is part of a larger envisioned regional trails network, including the Coastal Trails Network, the Border to Boston trail, and the Merrimack River Trail. For more information, please visit: www.cityofnewburyport.com/planning/railtrailproject/html.

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