In October 2007, seven bike-loving citizens of Derry, New Hampshire, formed the Derry Rail Trail Alliance (DRTA) to find way to convert an abandoned rail corridor in their town into a recreational trail that could be enjoyed by everyone in the community.
Ultimately, the group wanted to see this particular section of trail become part of the proposed Granite State Rail Trail – a path that would stretch all the way from the Salem, Massachusetts, border to the State Capital in Concord, New Hampshire.
Although they were filled with determination and motivation, one thing the group didn’t have was money to turn their dream into a reality.
Undaunted, the group approached their Town Council to request that public funds be made available for the project. While the Council liked the idea of developing the old rail corridor, which ran right through the downtown business district, there were concerns about spending public funds in lean times on a project that was seen by some as “focused on the special interests of a group of bicycle enthusiasts.”
Convinced that the trail had broad support among the people in the community, the DRTA volunteer board decided to do it the old fashioned way. They got together a paper petition, and started to circulate it door-to-door in the community. Unfortunately this method was time consuming and difficult with their small numbers.
During the petition drive one of the board members became aware of Care2 and its online petition site, and they decided to see if these tools could be used to support their cause.
“Within only a few days of putting the Care2 petition together and promoting it via local cable access TV, articles in the local paper and e-mailing community groups, we had enough signatures (close to 300 – many with great narratives about how worthy the towns people felt the project was of town funds) to bring before the town council,” said DRTA vice president, Mark Connors. “Based on the petition, the Town Council voted to authorize $225,000 towards the project… but with a stipulation – that DRTA raise the remaining money needed to complete the project through private funding.”
Energized by the success of the petition, the group sought out private contributors and local organizations to donate to the project. A year later, the DRTA was closing in on its goal of raising the additional $150,000 to have the first phase of the project completed, and in the Spring of 2010 Derry along with its neighboring towns was awarded a grant for more than $1.2 Million to see construction of the trail connection between Derry and Windham.
What began as a group of seven committed volunteers, using the power of Care2’s petition tools has blossomed into a movement among the various communities along the rail corridor and the vision of the Granite State Rail Trail has taken hold with local groups in each community beginning construction and fundraising.
Connors couldn’t be happier with the results.
“It just goes to show with a little community organizing, a dedicated group of volunteers, and online organizing and community building tools like Care2 – even a small local charity can do great things!”
Image Credit: Flickr – fabricio