GROTON — Artists and athletes alike are drawn to the energy of Groton.
The area is rich in artists and studios according to Joni Parker-Roach, owner of NOA Gallery, an art school and gallery on Main Street. She represents 75 New England artists and runs classes for children and adults.
The Nashua River Rail Trail, with over 2,000 users on a nice weekend day, runs through the town.
The trail passes under two roadways in its journey through Groton. Instead of seeing dank underpasses, local visionaries saw a blank canvas for art.
Now two murals decorate the underpasses.
The newest mural, running under Pleasant Street, was planned, designed and painted by Parker-Roach and her middle school students at NOA.
The undertaking was too big for one artist and she tried in vain to get local schools involved.
“Nobody was really interested,” she said.
“I was talking with a group of students I’ve had for years. The kids said, Joni, we can do this,” Parker-Roach said.
A middle school student, 14, is the project manager. Other 11- to 12- year old art students were on the design team with a representative from the rail trail and Parker-Roach.
“The rail trail asked if this could be a historical mural,” Parker-Roach said.
The ten panel mural has a map of Groton and the surrounding area. Most of the mural has railroad tracks along the bottom represeting a time line.
Black and white “snapshots” depicting local transportation history are scattered over a colorful background representing the landscape and general historical events.
Eventually the tracks turn into the current-day incarnation of the paved trail.
“It’s plain to see how much fun this was. It’s their design,” Parker-Roach said.
As part of the design process the students researched the history of Groton.
“They all want to join the Groton Historical Society,” she said.
Funding for the project came from different sources.
“We’re doing okay,” Parker-Roach said.
Parents stepped up with primer, to help with power washing and with hot cocoa for the artists working outside on cold days.
Some regular paint and anti-graffiti paint remained from the first mural. Funding from the Groton Cultural Council will most likely be used to install lighting in the tunnel.
Plans are already afoot for the other side of the underpass.
“Nine panels of the Groton Inn is the concept right now,” Parker-Roach said.
The inn, lost to fire in 2011, hosted historical luminaries like Paul Revere, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Townspeople attempted to preserve the murals probably painted by Rufus Porter in the mid-1800s, but the building was torn down before they could act.
Three dimensional functional art also has a home on the trail.
A resting spot with a metal bench created by Groton blacksmith Ray Ciemny and a bike rack in the form of a cypress tree created by NOA Gallery sculptor Gage Prentiss overlook the James Brook near the intersection of Broadmeadow Road.
Another one of Ciemney’s benches is by the kiosk in the Station Avenue parking lot.
The official unveiling will be held Sept. 9 as part of the festivities celebrating the ten year anniversary of the rail trail.