West River Trail Annual Letter: Southern Section

Greetings,

2022 has proven – once again – that outdoor recreational opportunities are very important to individuals, families, and the community – in hard times and in good. The West RiverTrail continues to serve as a place to enjoy our world, alone or with others, while being able to be safely distanced; and it is also a place of community, happiness, and joy.

Use of the trail continues to be very strong. Recent trail counts provided by the Windham Regional Commission show that there are typically 80-90 trail users per day, with peak usage topping 150 walkers, runners, riders, and other trail enthusiasts.  For Brattleboro and the region, the West River Trail is not only a place for outdoor recreation, but it is also good for our economy and our community, helping to attract people to the stores, restaurants, and cultural institutions of our area.

Friends of the West River Trail continues to work to improve and maintain the trail; to provide benches and picnic tables for rest and relaxation; to protect the land along the trail, and to improve the ecosystem health on the Riverstone Preserve.  To do this work, we need your help. Please consider a year-end donation to Friends of the West River Trail – Lower Section, to support this work.

Here’s how we’ve been putting your past support to work:

-We acquired an additional eight-acre parcel along the trail – the Town Line Parcel –which spans the Brattleboro-Dummerston town line and includes about a half-mile of the trail.

-We are using professional control services, along with the work of committed community volunteers, to continue our efforts to remove invasive plants from the 22-acre Riverstone Preserve. This includes removal of a variety of non-native plants and their residual seedlings, including: Asiatic bittersweet, multiflora rose, glossy buckthorn, black swallowwort, Japanese knotweed, and bush honeysuckle. And it’s so satisfying to see that native plants are coming back in place of these invasives!

-We installed additional benches.

-We’re continuing regular trail maintenance, removing fallen trees, and dealing with some of the challenging drainage problems.

-We are in discussions with a number of landowners along the trail about the possibility of acquiring additional land to expand the Riverstone Preserve and ensure protection of the entire Lower Section trail corridor. We are hopeful that we will be able to increase the land area that Friends of the West River Trail can fully manage for biodiversity and recreational opportunities.

-We are working with other organizations in the region to create a network of linked trails along the Connecticut River and extending into New Hampshire.

To be able to continue this important work on the trail and to take advantage of land acquisition and easement protection opportunities as they come along, we need community support. Please consider donating today.

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.  Please consider supporting these efforts by going to the Lower Section donate button on the West River Trail donate page.

Thank you and best wishes for a healthy and safe 2023,

Lower Section Steering Committee, Friends of the West River Trail

Jason Cooper, Brattleboro
Peter Doran, 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

Thank You Trail Volunteers!

On a warm, beautiful Saturday afternoon, at the end of October, we had our last invasive workday of the season, pulling invasives on the Riverstone Preserve. 

Here’s Eric Reinz, one of our dedicated volunteers, holding a handful of asiatic bittersweet seedlings. 

Though we are finished for the year, we plan to be back at it as soon as we can, in the spring of 2023.

We are so grateful for all the volunteers who showed up to help with this effort this year. Together, we pulled a lot of bittersweet seedlings (and some glossy buckthorn), which is a necessary and hugely important part of the management strategy following professional treatments.

Thank you, thank you!

Workday Scheduled for August 27

Seeking volunteers for the monthly invasives pulling workday on Saturday, August 27 from 9-11 AM. 

We’ll meet at the southern Sibosen trail intersection with the West River Trail on the Riverstone Preserve at 9 AM.  Bring work gloves, water, insect repellant. 

Contact us at lowersection@westrivertrail.org with questions and to let us know you’re coming. Hope you can join us. Thank you!

School Of The Forest Podcast: The Value of Outdoor Spaces

Recently Christopher Russell, Director; School Of The Forest and Lead Instructor; Jack Mountain Bushcraft School interviewed Steve Shriner and Kathleen about the West River Trail.

Click through to hear the full podcast – The Value Of Accessible Outdoor Spaces With Kathleen White And Steve Shriner Of The Friends Of The West River Trail.

School Of The Forest offers an environment in which young people and adults can learn outdoor skills that they can use for a lifetime. Christopher discovered the West River Trail a couple of years ago when scouting locations for his course on canoe poling, and recently reached out to learn more about the Friends of the West River Trail organization.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Russell, School of the Forest.

Trail News: Trail Reroute opens!

Huge thanks to the bridge prep crew – Elia Hamilton, Jesse Wagner, Malcolm Moore, Steve Shriner and Alex Wilson – for their contribution to trail improvements! All of this work takes financial and volunteer support. To help with these ongoing efforts to improve the trail, please consider a donation to the West River Trail. We welcome your support in any way you would like to give. Sign up on the website to receive email alerts about Volunteer Work Days and other events, and/or go to our Donate page to make a donation! Thank you!

The letter below is posted on behalf of Steve Shriner, West River Trail Steering Committee. Thanks to Alex Wilson for the photos of the bridge building workshop.

The WRT trail took a new turn recently with the opening of a rerouted portion of the trail in the Riverstone Preserve. This area, known locally as the “sandy area”, suffered from erosion and silt buildup from flooding. The flow of water across the trail from an upstream ravine had become more or less permanent.

The new trail parallels the old and includes a bridge over the stream made from locally sourced locust. In addition to the efforts of our volunteer steering committee, a volunteer group of employees from Nasdaq OneReport completed the final bridge assembly and helped finish the trail. Thanks to all who supported this project!

Projects like this enhance the Trail and make it more accessible and safe for all to use. To help with these ongoing efforts, please consider a donation to the West River Trail. Donate information can be found on our Donate Tab from the home page of the West River Trail website, and by clicking here. Thanks!

Reminder: Volunteer Work Day this Sunday

Join us on Sunday, September 26, 9:30-noon to learn how to identify rare plants and invasives with Mike Duffy, local botanist, and help clear the Riverstone Preserve of invasive plants, too! Bring work gloves, water, insect repellant, and snack. We’ll meet at the intersection of the Fox Farm Access road and the West River Trail. Email us at lowersection@westrivertrail.org to let us know you’re coming. Thank you!

Trail Work Day August 1st

Come learn to identify plants (especially invasive plants) and help remove them from the Riverstone Preserve at the same time! 

The Friends of the West River Trail are hosting a volunteer work day on Sunday, August 1 from 9:30 am to 1 pm.  

Dan Healey of LongView Forest (whose crew has been working on invasive mitigation on the RP for the last 3 summers) will be there to help us with identification and pulling methods. Mike Duffy, who is a botanist and has been creating an inventory of all the plants on the WRT will also be there.

Bring work gloves, water to drink, a snack, and a plastic trash bag. We will meet where the Fox Farm Rd access road meets the West River Trail, near the northern border of the Riverstone Preserve. For questions and to let us know you are coming, email lowersection@westrivertrail.org

Thanks and we hope to see you there!

New Benches on the Trail

The West River Trail is now home to two new beautiful benches.

The benches were built by Stephen Shriner using a design by Aldo Leopold. Great for taking a pause along the trail, the unique design of the benches has an upper rail as a support for taking a photo, using binoculars or simply savoring the view. They are made from the same white oak lumber that Jim used for the new picnic tables.

As always, improvements to the trail are a team effort, and made possible with the help of many hands. The benches were built and installed by Steve Shriner with land clearing and installation assistance from Alex Wilson. A RiseVT Amplify grant provided the financial support. Mark Anderson of Trevett Millworks donated the white oak lumber, Jesse Wagner made the connection for the donation of the lumber, and Jesse and Mark Westa picked up and delivered the lumber to Jim.

Photos by Alex Wilson.

New Trees Planted on the Trail

The West River Trail received 12 free trees from 350Vermont as part of a project called ReWild Vermont. 350Vermont is offering free trees to individuals and non-profits in an effort to get more trees planted to help with carbon sequestration, provide food for wildlife and humans, and all the other great things trees do for us. 

350Vermont organizes, educates, and supports people in Vermont to work together for climate justice – resisting fossil fuels, building momentum for alternatives, and transforming our communities toward justice and resilience. Click through to read more.

The 8 American Hazelnut trees, 2 Hackberry, and 2 Shagbark Hickory trees were planted on Saturday, May 8. Jesse Wagner coordinated the tree planting effort, by locating sites for planting, picking up the trees, getting tree tubes, stakes and mulch, and getting tools together. Other members of the FWRT Lower Section Steering Committee (Jason Cooper, Matt Mann, Steve Shriner and Kathleen White) came out to help dig holes, plant, and water the young trees. 

The Lower Section Steering Committee will monitor rainfall amounts and water the trees as needed. Most of the trees were planted on the Riverstone Preserve, with 3 hazelnuts planted near the new picnic table at the Rice Farm Road Trailhead. Trail users may notice the tubed and staked trees as they walk along the trail.

Many thanks to 350Vermont for providing the trees! 

Please Support the West River Trail

We need your support at Friends of the West River Trail. Please consider a year-end donation.

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 need your support at Friends of the West River Trail. Please consider a year-end donation.

How we are putting your support to work:

  • 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