Connecting Communities: The West River Trail is Expanding  

wrt spring 2013 elin waagen 4Connecting Communities: The West River Trail is Expanding: Friends of the West River Trail and The Nature Conservancy Collaborate to Grow Public Access.

The Friends of the West River Trail Inc. (FWRT) recently secured 13.7 acres of woodland in South Londonderry, Vermont, achieving strategic goals related to enhancing and expanding the existing West River Trail (WRT) – an off-road path that is popular year-round with locals and visitors of all ages and abilities.

Overall, this opportunity brings the FWRT that much closer to realizing its founding vision of completing a 36-mile scenic, multi-modal trail linking the West River Valley towns of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, Jamaica, and South Londonderry , once connected by the West River Railroad which ran from 1880 to the1930s.

For the past 25 years, FWRT has been working in partnership with state and federal organizations including Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation, US Army Corps of Engineers, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Vermont Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, as well as private landowners, to reclaim and reconnect remnants of the original railroad bed and adjacent lands for year-round recreational use and multiple resource values.

By acquiring this particular privately owned parcel, public access to what is known as the ‘Upper Section’ of the WRT (South Londonderry to Townshend Lake ) can be improved for an even better user-experience, says Greg Meulemans, current FWRT Board President.

“We are thrilled to finally secure this piece of property for all to use in the future. With ambitious fundraising to complete the transaction, clean up the remains of an old junkyard and redevelop this parcel, FWRT can move forward to preserve the very popular northern access point to the 16-mile section of the trail. Our plan is to enhance the access to the trail and the surrounding area by creating designated parking, building an informational kiosk and developing an expanded trail network.”

The FWRT concept of “an expanded trail network” is further supported by a concurrent neighboring land transaction by which The Nature Conservancy (TNC) acquired and permanently protected 102 acres adjacent to the Winhall Brook Natural Area, already owned by the Conservancy. The collective conservation of these parcels will help safeguard the West River itself and the freshwater species that rely on it for habitat, such as American shad, American eel, brook trout, and state-threatened freshwater mussels.

“This project is a great example of protecting a stage for biodiversity while also increasing public access to a community trail that helps connect people with nature. It’s a win-win to work with great local conservation partners like Friends of the West River,” said Jon Binhammer, Director of Land Protection for The Nature Conservancy.

To donate online to the West River Trail Upper Section (credit card or PayPal), please click on the WRT DONATE page. Or, mail your gift to West River Trail (Upper Section), P.O. Box 2086, S. Londonderry, Vermont 05155

Posted on behalf of:

Greg Meulemans, The Friends of the West River Trail, 802-366-0689
Eve Frankel, The Nature Conservancy, 802.595.5000

Friends of the West River Trail
Organized in 1992, the Friends of the West River Trail Inc. (FWRT) is a 501c3 non-profit organization working to: develop and maintain a publicly accessible system of paths along the West River corridor for educational, recreational and alternative transportation purposes; promote public awareness and enjoyment of the recreational path system and of the history, geology and biota of the West River valley; and coordinate local, state and federal interests in planning, funding, construction, management and use of the trail system. Please visit: for trail maps, volunteer opportunities and current information.

The Nature Conservancy in Vermont is a leader in safeguarding the natural resources of the Green Mountain State. We have helped conserve over 300,000 acres of land, 1,200 miles of shoreline, and we manage and maintain 55 natural areas that are open for hiking, fishing, snowshoeing and hunting. The Vermont chapter is proud to be connecting land, water, and wildlife for over 50 years. To learn more and support our important work, please visit:

Celebrate National Trail Day

west river trail run

West River Trail Run poster

West River Trail Run featured in the Manchester Journal.

Celebrate National Trail Day by participating in the fourth annual West River Trail Run Saturday, June 4, known as 11 Miles of Trouble after the infamous 36 miles of trouble along the West River. Over 130 years ago, the trail was 36 miles of railroad from South Londonderry to Brattleboro, trouble because of its narrow gauge and winding route leading to undependable service. Luckily for trail run participants that means a moderately challenging, beautiful race through various terrain. Woods, waterfalls, and switchbacks will be seen throughout the 11 miles from South Londonderry’s Depot to Jamaica State Park.

The first 200 individuals to register will receive a t-shirt, goodie bag filled with locally donated products, and free entrance to Jamaica State Park for the day. The race begins at South Londonderry’s Depot at 9 a.m., and ends at Jamaica State Park. It is suggested that participants park their cars at Jamaica State Park and take the race bus at 7:45 a.m. to South Londonderry’s Depot. Participants are welcomed to run the full 11 miles or section the run as a three-person relay team. It is timed for competitors but open to all. New this year is the 5K fun run/walk. It will start at Jamaica State Park at 9:30 a.m. It is an out and back along the beautiful West River.

‘Eleven Miles of trouble’ article published in the The Manchester Journal on 04/04/2016 04:42:17 PM EDT.

Annual West River Trail Run


Registration is open for the annual West River Trail Run on Saturday June 4, 2016. Visit The Collaborative website HERE for details, trail map, trail run packet and registration information.

Walk or run along the river on the beautiful West River Trail! The run starts at the Londonderry Depot, 34 West River Street, South Londonderry, Vermont and ends at the Jamaica State Park, 48 Salmon Hole Lane, Jamaica, Vermont. New this year is a 5K fun run/walk.

Participating in this event will support The Collaborative and help provide fun, healthy educational programs for youth in the Northshire and Mountain communities of Southern Vermont.

Hallelujah the Hills! Film Screening at the South Londonderry Depot

hallelujah the hillsThe Londonderry Historical Society, The Weston Historical Society and
The Friends of the West River Trail present Hallelujah the Hills!

Please join us on Thursday, March 10, 7:00 PM at The South Londonderry Depot for a rare opportunity to see this zany, Vermont made film.
Light refreshments. Donations appreciated. Doors open at 6:30 PM

Hallelujah the Hills is a zany, indie comedy shot locally (South Londonderry) in 1963. It received accolades at film festivals (Cannes, New York) but was very rarely shown in theaters. Hallelujah the Hills (1963) was written, directed and edited by Adolfas Mekas. The picture was his first feature film.

“Two young men, Jack and Leo, are both courting the same girl. For seven long years they persist, but she finally gives herself to the ‘horrible Gideon.’ In a sense, just as this is the pretext for the film, so the courtships of Vera is a pretext for Jack and Leo to camp out together in the Vermont woods near her home, and to indulge themselves in the wildest of horseplay and high jinks. The film has a Giffithian flavor, a lyrical naivete, which is extremely touching. At the same time it is full of sophisticated film parodies – Rashomon, the New Wave, Douglas Fairbanks, Ma and Pa Kettle. In short, this is one of the most completely American films ever made, in its combination of anarchistic wackiness with a nostalgic sense of the lost frontier and (maybe they’re both the same) the magic of youth.

In 1963 after screenings in the Cannes Festival Critics’ section, the Montreal Film Festival and the Locarno festival where it won the Silver Sail, HALLELUJAH THE HILLS, Adolfas Mekas’ first feature film made its USA debut at the First New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center on September 14, 1963, at a 6:30pm screening. It received rave reviews and went on to a 15-week engagement at the Fifth Avenue Cinema in New York, and movie theatres around the country. Currently, it is available in 35mm from Anthology Film Archives and the Museum of Modern Art, where it is also available in 16mm.

“Plotless and pointless, seemingly without a care for structure or cinematic style, it is infuriatingly unconventional and wholly disarming.” The New York Times

“The funniest comedy you’ve never seen” Chicago Tribune

The New York Times Review. Newcomers Present ‘Hallelujah the Hills,’ a Vermont Farce. Published: December 17, 1963
Three months ago, a modest little Vermont-made farce called “Hallelujah the Hills” surprised and delighted patrons of the first New York Film Festival by boisterously affirming that life can be a ball and movie-making can be fun.

This festive philosophy was broached to a commercial audience for the first time yesterday at the Fifth Avenue Cinema — as close to its spiritual Greenwich Village home as current distribution policies allow. Judging from the response, it should stay there for quite a while.

For this unpretentious exercise in low-budget cinema, made by a group of newcomers with little more than a camera, a few reels of film and a lot of imagination, is the wildest and wittiest comedy of the holiday season. Plotless and pointless, seemingly without a care for structure or cinematic style, it is infuriatingly unconventional and wholly disarming.

“I haven’t seen a movie in 10 days,” mourns Marty Greenbaum from his snow-covered hilltop perch in one of his — and the film’s — infrequently sober moments. If so, he is undoubtedly the only participant who has not. Everyone else involved, from the engaging group of actors to the ingenious young writer-director, Adolfas Mekas, displays an uninhibited affection for cinema, as evidenced in a staggering series of references to other movies. Practically everything is parodied, from D. W. Griffith to Jean-Luc Godard, with Japanese subtitles to supplement a “Ugetsu”-like fireside scene and a lyrical musical score to complement the heroine’s memories of “last summer at Vermont.”

The story, such as it is, has young Mr. Greenbaum and his ebullient friend, Peter H. Bear, as friendly rivals for the hand of Vera, a lovely and enigmatic winter sprite. The role is mimed with gusto by a pair of actresses, Sheila Finn and Peggy Steffans—since Vera, it seems, is seen differently through two pairs of eyes.

If the idea sounds far-fetched, it doesn’t really matter—either to the unsuccessful suitors or to the viewer. The two young men are beatniks on a binge, and their seven-year courtship is merely an excuse for a succession of cinematic sight gags, staged with infectious gaiety by the inventive Mr. Mekas as a tribute to his mentor, Mack Sennett.

Sterner spectators may quibble that the quality of the mirth tapers off toward the end, but the anarchic spirit is hard to resist. The game’s the thing in “Hallelujah the Hills” and a fun movie about the fun of movies emerges as an outrageous lark.

Hitchcock Presented at Londonderry Depot

Hitchcock Presented at Londonderry Depot


Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense, mystery, at times horror and even humor. Two upcoming Londonderry Depot events on Hitchcock are featured in the Manchester (VT) Journal Arts section. To read the full article, click HERE.

The public is invited to two events in early May celebrating the career and legacy of famed film director Alfred Hitchcock, both taking place at the restored South Londonderry Depot on Route 100 and hosted by the Friends of the West River Trail.
The first, on Friday, May 2, at 7 p.m. will be a presentation of Hitchcock’s career, supported by clips of his most renowned works, by film expert Rick Winston. Two weeks later, on May 16 at 7:30 p.m., the Friends of the West River Trail will present a screening of “The Trouble with Harry,” perhaps Hitchcock’s most comedic venture, though still with a touch of the macabre.
The Depot is handicapped-accessible. The events are free and open to all.

The first, on Friday, May 2, at 7 p.m. will be a presentation of Hitchcock’s career, supported by clips of his most renowned works, by film expert Rick Winston.
Hitchcock famously said “Some films are slices of life; mine are slices of cake.”
Winston’s presentation consists of 12 film clips, from “The Thirty-Nine Steps” (1935) to “The Birds” (1963), with a discussion of the evolution of Hitchcock’s craft, an exploration of his favorite themes and motifs (innocence and guilt, ordinary people in extraordinary situations, thrilling climaxes in public places, inanimate objects which take on great significance), and his work with famous collaborators. Winston grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and became hooked watching old films on TV at a young age. He went to Columbia College and University of California, Berkeley. He moved to Vermont in 1970 and founded the Lightning Ridge Film Society, which morphed into the Savoy Theater in 1981. He was a founder of the Green Mountain Film Festival and was its Programming Director until 2012. Since 2009, he has been teaching film at Burlington College and the Community College of Vermont.
Winston’s presentation is sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council as part of its’ Speakers Bureau program. The Vermont Humanities Council is dedicated to creating a State in which every individual reads, participates in public affairs, and continues to learn throughout life. Thanks to the sponsorship by the Humanities Council, there is no cost to attend. Voluntary contributions to support the preservation of the Depot will be gratefully accepted, but are not required.

On May 16 at 7:30 p.m., the Friends of the West River Trail will present a screening of “The Trouble with Harry,” perhaps Hitchcock’s most comedic venture, though still with a touch of the macabre. The story is set, and partially filmed, in Vermont and, unlike some of Hitchcock’s films, will not afflict its viewers with recurring nightmares. Fledgling performers appearing in “Harry” include Jerry Mathers, before “Leave it to Beaver,” and Shirley MacLaine (her film debut) alongside veterans John Forsythe and Edmond Gwenn.
This is a community event hosted by the Friends of the West River Trail. There is no admission charge. Again, however, voluntary contributions to assist with the upkeep of the Depot will be accepted.

Historic Glass Plate Negatives at Londonderry Depot

Historic Glass Plate Negatives at Londonderry Depot

londonderry arts and historical society

Photo courtesy of Londonderry Arts and Historical Society


Charlie Marchant and the Londonderry Arts and Historical Society will present a show of unidentified glass plates (and unidentified photographers) from the early 1900’s. Local shots – might be Londonderry, Windham, Winhall, Chester. Spread the word, this will be a fun night! Yummy refreshments!  Takes place on Wednesday, April 10th at 7:00 PM at the Depot in Londonderry.

Winter Newsletter 2013

Winter Newsletter 2013



Friends of the West River Trail

We hope your holidays were happy and that your new year is going well so far!
Reports say that since the snows fell, both the upper and lower sections of the trail has been very nice for skiing and snowshoeing, (depending on the freezes and thaws, of course). I hope some of you have had a chance to get out there and enjoy this beautiful trail during the winter season!

Doings at the Depot!
The public is invited to attend an Open House and social hour, with refreshments provided, hosted by the Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT), to be held on Tuesday, February 12, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, in the South Londonderry Depot on Route 100.
At the Open House, visitors will be updated on the current projects involving both the West River Trail (South Londonderry to Brattleboro when completed) and the Depot itself. Recent significant advances in trail development in the Brattleboro area by the Southern Section of the Friends will be recognized.
During the social hour, the latest prize of memorabilia at the Depot will be formally introduced: a locomotive bell generously donated by William and Agnes Peele. It is believed that the bell came from one of the last regularly operated steam locomotives on the Santa Fe Railroad.
Tim Lawrence will also be on hand to present a narrated video depicting his recent experience hiking on a rail trail, one of a series he is producing, and will also, as a rail historian, update us on the status of his “Forgotten Railroads” project. Timothy W. Lawrence is Founder and Videographer, I.M.R. Films, created in 2003. Since that time, he has worked on numerous projects from online advertising for Coca-Cola and Comcast to corporate videos for companies such as Skyhorse Publishing, Living WRAP and more. He resides locally, in Windham, VT.
The Open House will be preceded at 5:30 PM by a short business meeting of the FWRT Board, which visitors are welcome to attend if they choose.
Please plan to join your friends and the Friends of the West River Trail for an enjoyable and informative evening.

We have met our phase 1 fundraising goal! The Thomas Thompson Trust agreed to grant us $10,000 once we raised $35,000 from the community — which we have done!!! Hurray! Many, many individuals, grant-making organizations and businesses helped make this happen. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Some of you may have noticed that fine crushed stone was spread on the trail late fall, starting just past the I-91 bridge and continuing for the next mile north. The material was donated by Mike Cersosimo, and the spreading and rolling was nicely done by Jason Evans. If you were able to walk or ride on that section of trail before the snow fell, you would have noticed that it’s a nice improvement to a section that was fairly bumpy due to exposed tree roots and holes. In the spring, we will see how the new surface withstood the winter and will welcome feedback on it. If the feedback is positive, we will explore whether other areas of trail could benefit from the same treatment.

We have two beautiful kiosks in place! They were built and installed by Morse and Mindell builders. One is at the Marina trailhead and the other at the Rice Farm Rd trailhead. Many thanks for this donation from Jonathan Morse, Stephen Mindell and their crew. Thanks also to Home Depot in Keene, NH for selling us the supplies at a discount.

We received a grant from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps! We’ll be getting a crew of youth for 4 weeks this summer. They will focus on building the new section of trail from Rice Farm Rd to the quarry on Quarry Rd, and on installing bridges.

The Brattleboro Police Department Bicycle Patrol has been patrolling the lower section of the trail two to three times weekly (when it is clear enough of snow) to look for any safety or maintenance issues. We encourage all trail users to notify us of any safety or maintenance issues you encounter, by emailing at

Check out the Gallery on the FWRT website for great photos from the trail. You’ll also see how you can send in your photos to be included in the Gallery. If the trail has been your muse and you have writings or artwork inspired by your experiences, we would love to post them on the website. Please send them in! We also welcome your blogs or comments!

Spring Workdays on the lower section: when the ground is workable and the weather is amenable, we’ll be starting these up again. Watch for an email with dates or check the website.

Volunteer Workday Coordinator: We need a volunteer or two to help Jason Cooper plan, and lead work groups on the lower section. If you are interested, please email us at:

Website updating: We need someone with website skills to help us keep the website updated. Do you have skills you could offer? Contact us at

Posting information on our new kiosks: We need a volunteer to fill our kiosks, by posting signs, maps, announcements, photos, information of interest.

Enjoy the winter, and we look forward to seeing you on the trail!

Kathleen, for the Friends of the West River Trail

Friends of the West River Trail – Lower Section, 138 Elliot Street, Suite 3, Brattleboro VT 05301