Just when you think government cannot do anything right, that democracy is a pipe dream, you hear about something which will change your life and the lives of your neighbors which some humble public servant has patiently orchestrated when he could have been spending time at the bar throwing back Smutty Nose drafts.
There is an abandoned rail road track which connects Depot Square in Hampton to Portsmouth. Grass grows up through the tracks and it's only passable during winter snows, when it is a decent cross country skiing trail and snowmobiles use it. Otherwise, it is unused, something of an eye sore and forgotten.
But Chris Muns has not forgotten. He's done yeoman's work talking to dozens of people in and out of government trying to convert this old railroad bed to an asphalt road you could ride your bike in from Hampton to Portsmouth without ever having a motorized vehicle cross your path or run you down from behind. You could commute to work, safely and quickly, by bicycle.
He's had help from a committee of dedicated citizens, and he's hung in there.
The change this will bring to Hampton, if it happens, will be felt by anyone with children, anyone who rides a bike for exercise or pleasure. Where Rails to Trails projects have been invested in, like the Crescent Trail which weaves through and beyond Washington, DC, the trail becomes the town square. You see all your neighbors and their kids out there every weekend. During morning commuting hours, a few dozen hardy souls fly along to their jobs "downtown." On weekends, roller blade
rs, bikers all commune happily. Nearby businesses find customers have wandered off the bike path to have lunch, buy drinks, discover restaurants.
In Hampton, the breakfast and lunch diner at Depot Square will see more lunch trade. The hardware store, across the street will have to stock up on bicycle parts. The pizza stores, all the way down to the new Flatbread Pizza will find more people, even during Spring and Fall. The Old Salt may have to hire more waiters for the lunch crowd. Gus's bicycle shop in North Hampton will see more customers. Parents will drop off their eight year olds at Depot Square and know they are biking along a path where no cars can hit them. They can pick their kids up in Portsmouth, after a most excellent adventure as kids without hovering parents. They will have a safe haven, a long path to explore, to be kids out of a Normal Rockwell world.
If the Hampton to Portsmouth link happens it will transform every town it runs past: North Hampton, Rye, Portsmouth will all benefit. Folks will wonder why nobody ever thought to do this before. That's what happened in Washington, D.C., where the common refrain has been, "How did we live without this? What did we do before? How did our kids grow up without this?"
In New Hampshire, they paint a yellow line on the road and call it a bicycle path. Bicyclists take their lives in their hands (and occasionally lose) biking along Route 1A, to breathe salt air. But a Rails to Trails is a safe, protected ribbon. From Hampton, you could ride your bike as a straight shot, have lunch at Popovers and fly back in under two hours.
If and when this ever happens, whenever some Free Stater tells you government is not the solution, it's the problem, you can invite him down for a ride to Portsmouth along the trail a Democratic legislator got built. He can try telling that to all the kids and their parents he sees along the way.