Page 6 - 2013_winter.indd

tracks ’n’ ties
Newburyport, Mass., located 40 miles
north of Boston, was once home to a
thriving shipbuilding industry, a fact
memorialized in the city’s moniker,
Clipper City. Two rail lines blossomed
in tandem with Newburyport’s bustling
maritime trade: the Old Eastern Line,
carrying passengers to and from Boston,
and the City Branch Line, which took
freight (mainly coal) from the
seaport to points inland.
By the 1970s, the two
lines had fallen out of service,
and the corridors became
overgrown and prone to
phase of which opened in
is reviving these dor-
mant tracks.
The trail addressed
some of the leftover blighted
and abandoned land,” says
Geordie Vining, who has
been the trail’s project manager for more
than a decade. “We’ve taken that and
transformed it into a community asset.”
But while nearby rail-trails—includ-
ing the Old Eastern Marsh Trail on the
other side of the Merrimack River—
wend through picturesque scenes of lush
green woodlands and marshes alive with
birdsong, the Clipper City Rail Trail
features a more urban and industrial
backdrop. Planners, in turn, thought the
trail needed a little help in the aesthetic
A number of years ago, I went to
Paris on a family trip and saw sculp-
tures along the Seine,” says Vining.
It impacted how I put together the
design of the trail. It needed visual focal
These focal points came in the form
of more than a dozen original public
art pieces purchased and commissioned
largely from regional artists. Now, with
Trail Under Construction:
Clipper City
Rail Trail
Newburyport to Newbury,
Used Railroad Corridor:
Phase one
was built on the Old Eastern Line;
phase two will be built on the City
Branch Line
miles are currently
complete and open to the public; a
mile extension is under way
Proposed Surface:
compelling artwork lining the mile-
long trail, its location in the busy North
End neighborhood and connection to
a major commuter rail station, “the
trail has been well received since day
one,” says Lisë Reid, Newburyport’s
parks coordinator. “It’s well used and
Hundreds attended the trail’s second
anniversary last summer—a celebration
complete with live music and birthday
cake—and daily use on the trail during
the warmer months is currently esti-
mated at more than a thousand visitors.
The next 1.5-mile extension, phase two,
which is in the preliminary design stage,
will connect to the existing trail’s north
end, travel along the waterfront and the
city’s South End neighborhood, then
head down through a section of conifers,
pitch pines and hardwoods to end in
Newbury. The city anticipates construc-
tion on this phase beginning in 2014
and ending the follow-
ing year. To complete the
circle, a short connector
will be added later to join
the two segments at their
southern ends.
Although the artwork
will continue on the sec-
ond phase, Vining says
users can expect something
a little different this time. “We want to
complement the art on the first phase of
trail, not replicate it,” he says. “There’s
a lot of metal art on phase one, so we’re
looking to use more stone or other mate-
rials for the art on phase two.”
When asked what the most popular
sculpture on the trail is, without hesita-
tion Vining mentions the little locomo-
tive that was commissioned as an inter-
active sculpture. “It’s a gathering place.
Every time I go by, there are children
playing on it.”
The same could be said of the trail
itself: It’s a gathering place. Not only
does the trail provide health benefits,
alternative transportation and a rec-
reational amenity, but, according to
Vining, “it’s also a social space to see
neighbors and other people you know.”
For more information, visit
Phase one of the Clipper City Rail Trail
is open year-round and often plowed
in winter for pedestrians; (inset)
children play on the
Steam Loco
sculpture, created by artists Scott
Kessel and Matt Niland, one of many
intriguing art pieces along the trail.