By Bill Cantwell
---- — Take one of the best things Mother Nature has to offer — a trail along a scenic waterway.
Bring in workers to clear the land and put down a surface for safe hiking and biking.
Then offer some big money to lure sculptors whose work will adorn the trail.
That formula equals a riverside trail attractive to locals, but which will also help make Haverhill a “destination community’’ — a tourist attraction, say organizers of the project.
The Bradford Rail Trail on the south side of the Merrimack River across from downtown is on its way to becoming just that.
Two years ago, the city bought an old railroad bed to convert it to a trail. Next comes the effort to attract top sculptors to bring their art to the trail.
The local Pentucket Bank has donated $25,000 to the art project. Organizers of the project said they expect that money, along with cash to be raised at an auction later this year, will provide $50,000 for sculptures for the trail.
“This very generous donation from Pentucket Bank will provide another big draw to help attract people down to the Rail Trail,’’ said Rebecca York of Team Haverhill, who is co-chair of the Art Walk project. “In addition to those walking, running or biking the trail, numerous people will come ... to enjoy the fantastic sculptures that will be featured along the trail.’’
A “Call to Artists’’ has gone out to local and national artists to submit their designs for sculptures. Construction of the Rail Trail is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014 and be completed by the spring of 2015, when the sculptures will be installed along the trail.
The plan is to have four permanent sculptures and two temporary or rotating sculptures along the trail.
The state Department of Transportation is supervising construction of the trail. The construction money cannot be used for artwork there.
For years, Haverhill has had a goal of developing a walking and biking trail that would loop around the center of the city. The Rail Trail is the final piece and will be the southern part of the loop. The loop also includes the downtown to the north, Basiliere Bridge to the east and Comeau Bridge to the west.
“Pentucket Bank’s donation for the Art Walk at the Bradford Rail Trail will be the catalyst that leads to the eventual Bridge to Bridge Art Loop,’’ said Tim Jordan of Team Haverhill.
“Pentucket Bank is proud to be part of this effort towards Haverhill’s renaissance,’’ said Scott Cote, president of Pentucket Bank. “Pentucket Bank has been a partner of Team Haverhill’s on virtually every project we have worked on. No single business has provided the level of support that Pentucket Bank has.’’
The bank’s donation, coupled with the All Aboard auction to be held at the Haverhill Country Club on Nov. 16, will provide $50,000 for the sculptures to be placed along the Rail Trail.
The All Aboard auction will feature NECN meteorologist Matt Noyes of Haverhill as the auctioneer. The Friends of the Bradford Rail Trail and Team Haverhill are soliciting auction items. Anyone interested in donating an item should email ArtWalkBRT@teamhaverhill.org.
Team Haverhill suggests donations of: Gift certificates to restaurants or specialty stores, or for services; travel packages or vacation rentals; tickets to concerts, theater or sporting events; and unique one-of-a-kind items.
Cash donations are also accepted.
Participating businesses will receive donor recognition at the auction, on the Team Haverhill website and through the media.