SALISBURY — Many of the people responsible for the town’s 5.1-mile rail trail system gathered on the Old Eastern Marsh trail to say thanks Monday afternoon.
Town Manager Neil Harrington served as the master of ceremonies for the thank-you event, which was attended by more than 25 people, including selectmen and members of the Coastal Trails Coalition.
“What you see is the culmination of a long collaboration involving state and local governments, sweat labor, constant advocacy, and generous donations of money and resources,” Selectman Wilma McDonald said. “No wonder it took 20 years to finish this project.”
Harrington introduced former selectman and Coastal Trails Coalition director and treasurer Jerry Klima, who he said was the “godfather” of the effort. “He is the one person that has cohesively been able to take all of the disparate groups and interests from Washington to Boston to here in the Merrimack Valley,” Harrington said. “He put them all together and stitched together what you see here.”
Klima said the journey to complete the Salisbury rail trail system began when Amesbury built its own bike trail in 2001. The system stretches from the Gillis Memorial Bridge in Newburyport to the Seabrook, New Hampshire, border.
“Everybody got extremely jealous of Amesbury,” Klima said. “It was really nice and Newburyport and Salisbury people were saying, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?’”
Town Planning Director Lisa Pearson echoed Klima’s sentiments.
“It has been 20 years of putting things together,” she said. “When one thing was installed, we would move on to another thing and back and forth.”
Pearson said the rail trails became especially popular during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns last year.
“These trails were really a godsend during COVID,” she said.
Local construction company SPS New England won the bid to build the trails. Co-owner Wayne Capolupo praised Klima’s work and proposed that the trails be named after him.
“When Jerry approached us about this and we could see how organized the whole enterprise was, it was an easy decision because you could see it was really going to happen,” Capolupo said. “It is a great asset for the town.”