The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County (FNRT) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1996, dedicated to the conversion of the Northern Rail Corridor into a multi-use recreational trail. During the past eleven years The Friends have built an organization of approximately 130 paid members from all over New England, with the majority from the Upper Valley, and a twelve member volunteer Board of Directors who come from many Upper Valley towns and represent a variety of interests including cyclists, runners, snowmobilers, hikers, and cross-country skiers. The Friends also have a strong base of volunteers who attend our workdays and activities.

In addition to coordinating the efforts of trail development in Lebanon, Enfield, Canaan, Orange, and Grafton, the FNRT has sponsored its own workdays. The Friends have held clean-up days and contributed volunteers and organizational skills to workdays held in member towns. This work has included removing ties and metal, decking bridges, bridge demolition and reconstruction, clearing brush, ditching, signage installation, landscaping and mowing, litter clean-up and surface improvement work. The FNRT continues its effort at publicizing the rail trail. The Friends have also met with groups working on the Merrimack County portion of the trail to assist them by sharing our experience with grants and the logistics of all aspects of trail development.

The FNRT has promoted the trail through a newsletter and local newspapers, as well as at events sponsored by Riverfest, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, and Eastern Mountain Sports. The Friends have written and received numerous grants. The Friends maintain a web site, which has allowed new users to get information about the trail including surface conditions, access points, and nearby facilities. It can be visited at northernrailtrail.org. A full color brochure has been published by our organization that includes a map of the trail with parking and access points, has been included with this grant request. A series of color maps and displays of historic interest, produced by our volunteers, have been posted at various points along the trail. Information displays have been provided, by our members, at places of historical interest along the trail. A number of small parks have been developed through the efforts of our organization and other volunteer groups, in Lebanon and Canaan. Finally, benches have been placed at scenic intervals along the trail.

This trail is used by people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens, for cycling, walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, dog sled training, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, bird watching, to gain access to fishing areas, and even by handicapped people with walkers and in wheel chairs! This use includes residents of the contiguous towns as well as many surrounding areas, and from Vermont and Massachusetts and other New England areas. With the surface improvement, the use of the trail has increased exponentially.

The Friends have worked with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, the Lebanon Lions Club, local snowmobile clubs, area scout groups, and senior and other volunteer organizations, and have written and received several grants. Boy Scout groups have developed a wayside park, signs, kiosks, and tree planting. Funding assistance has come from the Brundage Foundation, the Upper Valley Foundation, the Mascoma Bank Foundation, and the Dwinell Trust.