Places We Protect

Manchester Cedar Swamp

New Hampshire

Bright green fern fronds.
Ferns Ferns are abundant in Manchester Cedar Swamp in Manchester, New Hampshire. © Eric Aldrich/The Nature Conservancy

Giant rhododendron and lush ferns are abundant at this urban preserve.

Overview

Description

A portion of the parking area and trail system have now reopened. There are three parking spaces currently available. If visiting, please follow the orange temporary fence to the open trails. Please stay on designated open trails ONLY and do not attempt to walk or explore the All Persons Trail, currently under construction. Respect all additional fences, signage and closures.

Please be advised that temporary closures will continue to occur throughout the summer to accommodate excavation and construction of the All Persons Trail. In addition to this new universally accessible trail, the improvements will include expanded parking, accessible parking spots and a bus stop. We'll do our very best to announce closures and openings here and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Thank you for your understanding and support of this incredible project.Welcome to Manchester Cedar Swamp!


New Hampshire’s largest city isn’t where most of us think of going to explore nature. But nature abounds here at the 640-acre Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve, the largest conservation area in the city—providing residents and visitors alike with opportunities for a peaceful escape, outdoor recreation and nature study close to home.

Curious visitors who follow the preserve’s easily accessible and well-maintained 1.8-mile trail system will find shady hemlock groves, giant rhododendron patches and the globally rare Atlantic white cedar swamps that are the preserve’s namesake. Mingling in are black gum, another long-lived tree species that occurs in the Manchester Cedar Swamp wetlands. Some of these trees are over 450 years old. 

When you’re down on the boardwalk in the cedar swamp, the stillness and sense of solitude can feel like a remote wilderness. Amazing to think that in 10 minutes’ time you can be off the trails and in downtown Manchester getting ready for your next adventure!

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Highlights

Hiking, snowshoeing and bird watching are fun activities at this preserve. There are also citizen science opportunities here including Picture Posts and iNaturalist.

Size

640 acres

Explore our work in New Hampshire

From Campus to Conserved

A large portion of Hackett Hill, including parts of what is now our preserve, was slated to be UNH’s Manchester Campus.  Plans were drawn up and funding approved to start construction. Roads, granite curbs, underground power, parking lots and lighting were all installed.  Before classroom construction began however, the state decided to relocate the campus into the old mills along the Merrimack River.  The Hackett Hill improvements remain to this day, creating a ghost town feel. 

After the relocation of the campus, Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve was protected through an innovative settlement agreement in 1999 between the City of Manchester, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.  Under the agreement, the City of Manchester agreed to establish a $5.6 million Supplemental Environmental Projects Program in order to do environmental restoration and protection projects. In exchange the City was allowed to phase in stormwater control improvements to remove combined sewer overflow into the Merrimack and Piscataquog rivers.

The city allocated $2 million for protection of rare wetlands with a goal of preserving the globally rare Atlantic white cedar swamp and giant rhododendrons located in the Hackett Hill area. The cedar swamp is among the biggest and best quality in the state and was located in an area of several hundred acres of undeveloped land. The EPA asked The Nature Conservancy to own and manage these special lands because of our biodiversity mission and land management expertise. We received 350 acres from the City of Manchester in August 2001 and another 252 acres was added to the preserve in 2002 and 2003. In April 2015, we once again partnered with the City of Manchester to add another 40 acres—known as "the thumb"—to the preserve.

A Trail For Everyone
Access For All at Manchester Cedar Swamp

Four people walking down a flat path in the woods.
Ramble On Universally accessible trails like this one make it easier for people of all abilities to get out into nature. © Canva
Ease On Down The Road
Ease On Down The Road Hikers enjoy a leisurely stroll through the woods. © Robert Nua Toy-Gile

Watch: Trail Groundbreaking Event

We have officially broken ground on the All Persons Trail at Manchester Cedar Swamp! Watch the video to hear words of inspiration from members of the community as we celebrate this special moment.

Just minutes from the bustling streets of downtown Manchester lies another world: the peaceful, calm and earthy silence of the Manchester Cedar Swamp - a place of ancient trees and giant ferns, a natural treasure in the midst of New Hampshire's largest city. Unfortunately, for too many, the wonders of places like the Manchester Cedar Swamp have long been inaccessible. The reality is: not everyone can equally access our natural public spaces. For some, standard trails do not offer a sufficiently level surface, gentle slope, or secure footing. Others may feel unsafe or uncomfortable with being in the woods or navigating traditional trails. Still more may be limited by transportation, unable to even reach these locations.

We believe equity and diversity are laws of nature.

New Hampshire State Director
Map of Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve.
The yellow line shows where the new universally accessible trail will be built at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve (click to enlarge).

Breaking Down Barriers

Breaking down these barriers is a vital step in ensuring that the outdoors is truly accessible for all. It is why The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire is planning to build a universal trail at the Manchester Cedar Swamp, with the hopes of introducing this hidden ecological gem to visitors of all abilities and comfort levels. This universal trail will offer a tangible opportunity for more people to experience the power of nature, one more affirmation of inclusivity, one more declaration that nature is here for all of us. We need your help to ensure this trail is truly inclusive and accessible.

In 2020, community connection was hard to find. So we went looking for it.

We are on a mission to build an outdoor space that offers a tangible opportunity for more people to not only experience the power of nature but to also feel included and actively welcome. We are building a Universally Accessible Trail in New Hampshire's largest and most diverse city.

A wide, accessible path winds through woods.
A narrow path winds through lush, green woods.
A Common Path The Nature Conservancy completed its first universally accessible trail in New Hampshire at the Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve (right). An existing, traditional trail (left) was upgraded to allow more diverse users to enjoy nature. Visitation has increased substantially, indicating the draw that a more inclusive trail can bring. © The Nature Conservancy
A tree with a yellow and green trail arrow on it.
Hiking Trails Two hikers explore a local trail. © Mike Wilkinson

Get Involved!

There are so many ways to be a part of this exciting effort. Here are just a few examples:

Join Our Community

Spread the Word
  • Post about the trail on social media (and don't forget to tag us!) Find us on:
  • Tell your friends and family about the universally accessible trail.
  • Submit a Letter to the Editor of your local paper expressing your support of this effort.

Join Our Community

Spread the Word
  • Post about the trail on social media (and don't forget to tag us!) Find us on:
  • Tell your friends and family about the universally accessible trail.
  • Submit a Letter to the Editor of your local paper expressing your support of this effort.
Donate
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The first step towards a more inclusive experience at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve is to listenlisten to the many, diverse voices that make up the vibrant fabric of our community. To gather input on how we can best ensure the trail is built in a way that serves everyone in the Manchester community we held five virtual, community-led conversations. The events focused on identifying barriers that individuals from the Black, LGBTQ+, disability and senior communities face when looking to access nature, and recommendations we received to help shape our efforts at the preserve.

And we're still listening and learning! Curious to hear more about what's been discussed thus far? Check out the recordings of our Access For All Community Discussions.

A wood thrush in the forest.
Wood Thrush One of the species found at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve © Jonathan Pierce

Thanks to our many supporters:

  • AARP
  • Anna B. Stearns Charitable Foundation
  • Appalachian Mountain Clug
  • Disability Rights Center New Hampshire
  • Madelaine G. von Weber Trust
  • NAACP of Greater Manchester
  • NH Parks and Recreation, Recreational Trails Program
  • Norwin S. & Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation
  • Opportunity Networks
  • RiverWoods Manchester
  • Samuel P. Hunt Foundation
  • The VF Foundation
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • the Manchester community

Past Events

Community Listening Sessions

  • Physical Access to Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The Disabilities Rights Center NH and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Physical Access to Nature & 30th Anniversary of the ADA at the end of July of 2020. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the disability community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire — like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve — are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Stephanie Patrick, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Center
    Joanne Glode, The Nature Conservancy
    Kim Thibeault, Granite State Independent Living
    Carrie Duran, Parent advocate
    Joyce Craig, Manchester Mayor
     

  • Black In Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The NAACP of Greater Manchester and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Black in Nature at the end of September of 2020. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the Black community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire — like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve — are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Nicole Jackson: Natural Leader of the Children & Nature Network, a member of the National Parks Conservation Association's Next Generation Advisory Council, was co-organizer of Black Birders Week and founder of Black in National Parks Week.   
    Pedro Altagracia: Local New Hampshire outdoor enthusiast and Community Organizer.
    James King Jr.: Environmental & outdoor recreational leader, former Park Ranger at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Washington Wilderness Recreation Coalition 2018: Next Generation of Outdoor Leaders, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and is dedicated to promoting accessibility and representation of African Americans.
    Kadeine Peterson: Former genetic researcher turned biology teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH.


  • LGBTQ+ in Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The Appalachian Mountain Club and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled LGBTQ+ in Nature. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the LGBTQ+ community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire — like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve — are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:

    Richella Simard: Artist and art educator ally and advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and rights working in New Hampshire.
    Emmett LeBlanc: LGBTQ+ community health worker, pro-health integrated health care clinic through the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester.
    Melissa Leszek: Donor Communications Associate for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

    Yasamin Safarzadeh: Yasamin works for YWCA New Hampshire and the Currier Museum of Art, creating accessibility to the arts for, typically, underserved populations.
    Yvonne Rynearson: Trip instructor with The Venture Out Project and Farm Director and Agricultural Educator for an independent middle school.
     

  • Active Seniors in Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    AARP of New Hampshire and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Active Seniors in Nature. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the Active Senior community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire — like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve — are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Todd Fahey, AARP NH State Director
    Kim Murphy, Birch Hill Independent Living Facility, Manchester, NH
    Bill Foss, Birch Hill Resident and Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve enthusiast
    Elaine Schmottlach, Birch Hill Resident
     

Community Trail Updates

  • February 2021 Update

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire hosted another virtual community coffee update on the Manchester Cedar Swamp Universally Accessible Trail. The virtual conversation focused on providing an update on the changes made to the trail plan based on community input, an update from Highway Chief Engineer for the City of Manchester Department of Public Works Todd Connors on the proposed bus stop, and a presentation by trail builder Peter Jensen.

  • October 2020 Update
     
    The Disability Rights Center NH and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community coffee update on the Manchester Cedar Swamp Universally Accessible Trail. The virtual conversation focused on providing an update on the trail build, a fundraising update, a community engagement update with time for questions and responses from those in attendance.

Visit Manchester Cedar Swamp

You can hike through 1.8 miles of trail that includes three loop trails through the cedar swamp, white pine and red oak woodlands, and giant rhododendron thickets.  The cedar loop trail leads you through a small section of the cedar swamp where you’ll see Atlantic white cedar, giant rhododendron, winterberry, cinnamon fern, and a large black gum tree.   The rhododendron loop trail leads through several thickets of giant rhododendron which are in full bloom in June.  You can also walk along the wetlands of Millstone Brook which is a great place to see wetland birds like great blue herons and common yellowthroat warblers and wildlife like deer, mink, and beaver. The trails are also perfect for snowshoeing in the winter!

Trail rating:  Easy

Enjoy the Preserve Responsibly:

• Leave No Trace—please keep the preserve clean by carrying out your trash (and any that you find).

• No camping or open fires allowed.

• Please, for your safety and the protection of this globally rare ecosystem, stay on marked trails.

• Foot traffic only; horses, bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited.

• Pets are not permitted; help us protect wildlife on the preserve and be respectful of other hikers by leaving your pets at home.

• Hunting is allowed on the preserve, except within 300 feet of the trail. Please obey all posted signs and contact NH Fish & Game Department for dates and regulations.

• Respect the natural world around you! Do not remove or destroy plants, wildlife, minerals or cultural items.

Virtual Birding at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve Join our AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator Charlotte Harding on a virtual tour of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire's Manchester Cedar Swamp’s trail system. She’ll be stopping in key habitats to tell you about the birds you can expect to see and hear!

What is the Future of Nature?

Can you envision a future where people and nature thrive together? Here in New Hampshire, we have a choice to make. There are two paths forward for our state and for our world, and the choices we make today will define the legacy we leave behind for future generations.