New Hampshire is rich in natural amenities — mountains, lakes, forests, rivers — as well as in historic towns that invite visitors with their charm and hospitality. UNH Extension’s new Downtowns and Trails program aims to link those resources, literally, by making trails a pathway to economic vibrancy and the state’s $8.7 billion outdoor recreation industry.
In Bristol, a town of 3,300 year-round residents, UNH Extension nature-based economy state specialist Shannon Rogers and her team recently helped residents, businesses and community leaders come together to find opportunities in the rail-trail that connects the historic downtown and nearby Newfound Lake. The work, supported by a Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development grant, articulated a vision for greater coordination of downtown services and path users and investment in promoting and maintaining the trail.
“Broadly speaking, research and practice shows that there are essentially four categories that need to be in place for a successful connection between downtowns and trails: Natural, economic, built and social/leadership conditions,” says Rogers. “We teach and train communities to assess and sustainably leverage their natural assets for economic vibrancy.”