“There’s a certain peace that I feel walking along this river. Nothing like walking near water, or being near water that soothes the soul, so to speak. It’s consoling during this time of great anxiety and isolation.” – Robert Peeples, Brattleboro resident
2020 has been a year like no other. The impact of COVID-19 on all of us has been extraordinary. It has been a hard year for everyone, and we so hope that our friends are healthy, that our community remains strong, and that the Brattleboro economy recovers.
At Friends of the West River Trail we feel very good that we’ve been able to improve the lives of many during these challenging times – even if just a little. The West River Trail that we manage has seen an upsurge in usage since the outset of the pandemic.
While there were tens of users per day last year, this year there have been hundreds of users on a nice weekend. Even during the week, the trail from near the Marina Restaurant out to Rice Farm Road in Dummerston has seen a dramatic increase in use. Data collection from the Windham Regional Commission shows trail usage up 60% to 80% this year, compared with 2019. Most of us are sticking close to home, and the Trail offers a safe way to get outdoors. Because it’s a wide trail, we can practice responsible social distancing as we visit with friends and family in a spectacular setting.
2020 has also strained our collective pocketbooks. Many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, and our region hasn’t been able to benefit from out-of-state visitors who usually shop in our stores and support other local businesses. These impacts ripple through the economy, including charitable giving.
We’re continuing work to remove invasive plants from the 22-acre Riverstone Preserve that we own. The area has been dominated by a variety of non-native plants, including oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, buckthorn, black swallowwort, and Japanese knotweed. But with the help of Long View Forest, Inc., we’re getting the better of it, and a recent walk on the Preserve with a local botanist showed that native plants are coming back!
We built and installed two benches at the I-91 bridge that provide a place to rest and look out over the river, and we’re currently building two additional picnic tables. We are also planning to install more benches along the trail.
We’re adding signage, including some interpretive signs focused on the area’s natural history; look for those in the coming months.
We’re continuing regular trail maintenance, removing down trees, and dealing with some of the challenging drainage problems.
Most importantly, we’re looking to the future and the possibility of purchasing additional land to expand the Riverstone Preserve, to ensure protection of the entire Lower Section trail corridor, and to help create a network of linked trails along the Connecticut River and extending into New Hampshire. To be able to take advantage of land acquisition and easement protection opportunities as they come along, we need money in the bank.
Friends of the West River Trail is a nonprofit (501(c)(3) organization that is 100% volunteer run. Those of us on the Lower Section Steering Committee are your neighbors in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Newfane, and Marlboro – working to provide critically important recreational opportunities for our community.
For more information and to make a donation, please visit The West River Trail DONATE page. Please click through to MAKE A DONATION to support the West River Trail.
Thank you and best wishes for a healthy and safe 2021.
Lower Section Steering Committee, Friends of the West River Trail Jason Cooper, Brattleboro Elia Hamilton, Newfane Lester Humphreys, Brattleboro Matt Mann, Brattleboro Malcolm Moore, Marlboro Steve Shriner, Brattleboro Jesse Wagner, Dummerston Mark Westa, Brattleboro Kathleen White, Brattleboro Alex Wilson, Dummerston
The Windham Regional Commission does routine counts of the use of the West River Trail. Counts from this past April and September show an increase in trail use since COVID-19 for both walkers and bicyclists. Great to see that so many of us are able to utilize the West River Trail during this challenging time.
A big thanks to Jeff Nugent for his work on tracking trail use and for creating and sharing this graph. For more information on the work of the WRC, please visit their website at windhamregional.com. Click on the image above for the full 2 page report.
Keep yourself and others safe on the West River Trail by following posted COVID-19 safety protocols.
Please share this area safely and responsibly. Use the trail only if you feel well and have not been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Practice social distancing – maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and those not in your family. Wear a mask. Save N95 masks for healthcare professionals; use a homemade cloth mask, purchased mask, or bandana. Avoid shared surfaces such as benches, picnic tables, railings. Consider less traveled trails if the trail or parking lot appears crowded.
If you use the trail regularly, and are in a position to support the trail, please consider making a donation to help maintain the trail. The Friends of the West River Trail is a registered 501 (3) (c) organization. Click HERE TO DONATE.
Wet weather is forecast for this Tuesday, September 29, so the RP trail will be open that day. Look for the trails on the Riverstone Preserve to be closed for the day on Thursday, October 1. Thank you! Sorry for the confusion!
The Riverstone Preserve will be closed Tuesday, September 29, due to the final treatment this year (we hope!) on invasives (bittersweet seedlings). The West River Trail will remain open, but there will be signage and caution tape across the smaller trails that go into the Riverstone Preserve. We are sorry for the inconvenience.
Because of the work that has been done the past 3 years by Longview Forest, Inc., we should be able to keep the invasive plants under control in the future, by manually removing them. Next spring, summer and fall, we will be organizing volunteer crews to help with this work. Please be in touch if you might be interested in assisting us and we’ll contact you. Thank you so much!
The Riverstone Preserve portion of the trail (that was closed on June 16, and again on June 25) will unfortunately need to be closed again for one day, Monday, July 27, for continued treatment of the woody invasives. Off limits will be the section of the WRT that goes through the Riverstone Preserve, as well as the smaller trail that loops around the preserve. Signs will be hanging at the trailheads to inform trail users. The Riverstone Preserve will re-open on Tuesday, July 28. We apologize again for the inconvenience. Thank you for your patience with the important work being done on the Preserve to get the invasives under control. This work will allow native plants to grow and florish.
A portion of the West River Trail was closed for a day on June 16. Unfortunately, we need to close that portion again (weather permitting) on Thursday June 25, to wrap up the work that was started on June 16.
FWRT has been contracting with Longview Forest to treat invasives on the Riverstone Preserve, a 26 acre parcel of land between the river and the trail. The closure will affect that portion of the WRT, plus the side trail that loops through the preserve.
Signs will be posted at the trailheads to inform the public.
The Riverstone Preserve area of the trail will reopen on Friday, June 26. We apologize for the inconvenience.
As you may know, FWRT has been contracting with Longview Forest to treat woody invasives on the Riverstone Preserve adjacent to the West River Trail (between the trail and the river). Access to the Riverstone Preserve will be off limits on Tuesday, June 16, because a follow up treatment will be occurring (weather permitting). Off limits will be the section of the WRT that goes through the Riverstone Preserve, as well as the smaller trail that loops around the preserve. Signs will be hanging at the trailheads to inform the public. The Riverstone Preserve will re-open on Wednesday, June 17. We apologize for the inconvenience!