A new Manchester program will offer public transportation to surrounding outdoor green spaces, trails
The Nature Conservancy is working with the Manchester Transit Authority to offer public bus rides from downtown to nearby green spaces.
On the first Saturday of each month through September, residents can catch a bus at Veteran’s Memorial Park and head to outdoor spaces within a 30 mile radius of Manchester. The sites will change each month. The program begins this weekend, May 7, with a trip to the Massabesic Center in Auburn.
Sheila Vargas with the Nature Conservancy says the Transit to Trails pilot aims to expand access to the outdoors, in particular for people who may not own a car.
Throughout 2020, the Nature Conservancy held six community forums to learn more about what barriers exist to getting outdoors.
“The number one thing that came up across the board, regardless of what community you identify within, your ability, your race, your religion, anything, was lack of transportation in New Hampshire, especially to get to outdoor parks and green spaces,” said Sheila Vargas,
government and community relations manager for The Nature Conservancy.
Around this time, Manchester alderman Will Stewart came across a program in Seattle, Washington that used public transit to connect people with nearby trails and outdoor spaces, and he reached out to the Nature Conservancy about finding ways to implement it.
The Manchester Transit Authority already offers rides to Hampton Beach and the Deerfield Fair, Vargas said.
“They thought that adding another program that shuttles folks to outdoor green spaces where they can walk, have a picnic, hike, swim for the cost of a bus ticket, round trip was a really good add-on to their programming,” she said.
A round trip costs $5 dollars per person, and buses will leave from Veteran's Park every two hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At the end of the pilot, the groups will look at ridership numbers, and which parks and other areas were the most popular in the hopes of continuing the program in the future.
More information can be found at mtabus.org.