Senate to vote on rail trail connector bill – New Hampshire Bulletin

The Senate is expected to approve a bill on Thursday that would make it easier to connect segments of the state’s rail trail by protecting railroad owners from liability when outdoor recreation is permitted on the land.

Without House Bill 1579“We can’t close what we call the big gap,” Jason Soukup told Senate lawmakers during a public hearing on the bill this month. Soukup works for Manchester Moves, a non-profit organization that has built trails in and around Manchester.

The ‘big gap’ separates the northern part of the Granite State Rail Trail, a 58-mile trail stretching from Boscawen in Lebanon, from the southern part of the trail, which runs from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to Salem, according to Soukup. “Where we’re stuck is where there’s still a railroad for some reason,” he said.

The bill would make it clear that railroad owners are protected from liability when people using the trails are injured or have other accidents. Soukup said it would allow Manchester Moves to bridge the “big gap”, adding 30 miles of track to link Manchester with Concord.

The Ministry of Natural and Cultural Resources also supports the bill. The Bureau of Trails, located in this department, manages approximately 300 miles of state-owned rail trails, in addition to 1,000 miles of OHRV trails and 7,000 miles of snowmobile trails. Most of the trail system is on private land, according to Trails Bureau Chief Craig Rennie.

“One of the main reasons landowners want to promote public access to their properties is because of the liability protections that landowners enjoy,” he told lawmakers. Liability protection already exists for landowners who allow public access to their land for outdoor recreation. The bill would add railway property and rights of way to lands whose owners are eligible for liability protection.

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