BEVERLY— Although competitive running has taken him all over the world, Nathan Currie has his heart set on a local trail.
"When in Sally, I could run all of the trails probably in an hour," Currie said. "But each trail follows little different parts of the land in that hour. You get to experience the topography of the landscape all in one go."
"Sally" is Sally Milligan Park, 47 acres of land off Cross Lane that includes a soccer field and a network of trails.
"I knew that there was a parking lot half a mile down the road and I know that all of this is part of Sally Milligan," Currie said Saturday at the park, pointing to the vast forest in front of him. "So I wondered why there isn't a trail that connects the two."
Now, Currie is proposing a project to develop a trail that would connect the Cross Lane soccer field parking lot with the park.
"We think it would be a great idea," said Bruce Doig, the city's director of parks and recreation. "The park gets a lot of usage as people walk their dogs and mountain bike."
Currie, 26, moved to Beverly two years ago and has since been trying to figure out the location of all the city's trails. He specializes in ultramarathon running — running races that are longer than the traditional 26.2-mile length of a marathon.
Currie first found Sally Milligan Park when he was looking for a route that went from Beverly to Rockport's Halibut Point.
"I spent two Saturday mornings doing some reconnaissance in here," laughed Currie, explaining that he was primarily bushwhacking through bush and bramble to get a lay of the land.
He's since attended several Open Space and Recreation Committee meetings, discussing with the city two potential options for a connecting trail.
Trail A is roughly 3/10 of a mile through a pine forest. Currie explained that this option would be minimally invasive and relatively short.
Trail B is a longer trek of about 7/10 of a mile to the open meadows farther into the park, with an access point running alongside the soccer field.
Both trails would need a 10- to 12-foot bridge, according to Currie's proposal.
At the open space committee's Oct. 2 meeting, committee member David Brewster recalled a previous discussion where a similar proposal had been brought forward, but it was "too daunting as a result of the wetlands and the extensive brush."
Board members also discussed the building expenses, noting that "building bridges could be costly and may not work well with the topography and its challenges."
After more discussion at its November meeting, the committee told Currie that they would talk to Conservation Commission, because his proposed project would involve the wetlands in the park.
Environmental Planner Jenna Pirrotta said the committee is still discussing the issue with the commission.
A passion for running
Currie's passion for running long distances on trails started when he was in college. "It was a way for me to explore," Currie said. "I didn't have a car and I had a bike but wasn't very good at mountain biking."
He would later travel to Italy to compete in his first ultramarathon, a feat that would prove to be the beginning of many long runs.
"It was one of those things where you finish and you think, 'thank God'," Currie laughed. "The next day I was like, 'that was pretty fun,' and then a week later I was thinking I could probably do that again."
Currie has run four ultramarathon races that have each accumulated to 31 miles (50k) in length.
For the last three years, Currie has run an average of 2,000 miles a year.
"It is just a way that I really enjoy moving through landscapes and it makes me feel like my legs are actually taking me somewhere," said Currie.
As he waits to hear from the city, Currie said he plans to keep running and researching how to make new trails that make Sally Milligan Park more accessible.
"I think that is when things can happen," Currie said. "When you have a passion for it but there is also a need."
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-338-2527 or email@example.com.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since its original publication to correct that Halibut Point is located in Rockport.