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Salem - A multipurpose trail planned for the area behind Salem School could give students the opportunity for outdoor poetry readings and science experiments while providing the school's vagabond cross country team with an official home course.
The Harris Brook Multipurpose Trail has been a work in progress for nearly a decade. Planned for completion by next year in a best-case scenario, it would connect about a mile of trails from a parking lot on Music Vale Road to the Round Hill Road complex.
The trail, which is partially complete, would provide a place for residents to partake in bike riding, horseback riding and other activities - and it would also create a number of new opportunities for Salem School students.
The trail committee's chairwoman, Sue Spang, gave a presentation to the Board of Education on Monday night and answered questions about the project. The board delayed a vote that would join a small road behind the school with the trail, opting to have school administrators further consider safety precautions.
But Salem School Principal Cynthia Ritchie said several members of her staff have expressed excitement after considering the opportunities the trail would create for students.
Mary Sturgeon, a tutor at Salem School and a school liaison on the trail project, said Monday that Salem School's cross country team could use the trail for practice and home meets. The team is currently bused to the town-owned Gadbois property for some practices and meets, she said.
"They're excited that this could take place," said Sturgeon, a former cross country coach. "This would be great for training."
Spang said that the plan for the trail calls for three bridge crossings over Harris Brook. They require several approvals - including a flood management permit - and Spang said pre-application meetings with several state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection and the National Park Service, took place recently.
The trail will be paid for partly by a $160,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant. A recreational trails grant and another grant authorized by the Office of Policy Management - both totaling a combined $75,000 - have also helped fund the trail.
Board of Education Chairman Daniel Kung voiced concern about students leaving school property via the trail and other people using it to come on to school property. Dr. H. Kaye Griffin, the new school superintendent, said she would schedule a meeting with Spang to go over the logistics for the trail.
Kung said he supported the idea of tying the town together through the trail. Spang, who has worked on the project since 2002, has already spent a lot of time considering what the trail could provide for residents and students at Salem School.
"This will allow kids to be able to walk to school. They can ride their bikes. It allows teachers to go down to the river and they can conduct some of their classes," she said. "That's the big advantage for the school to do this."