Vermont Winter Trails

The West River Trail was recently featured in an article on little-known Vermont winter trails. 

Here’s an excerpt:

For a small state, Vermont is big on trails. Fortunately, access to Vermont winter trails can happen without going to a ski resort or traversing the backcountry. The Green Mountain State is home to a variety of smaller Vermont winter trails and trail networks offering snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

The 36-mile West River Trail includes an Upper Section in Londonderry, Jamaica, and Townshend and a Lower Section in Brattleboro and Dummerston. Most of the trail system is not groomed for skiing. However, the Army Corps of Engineers grooms in the Winhall Campground and along a few miles in the Upper Section.

Upper Section access points include the Winhall Campground and the trail head at the end of West River Street in South Londonderry. Lower Section parking and access is at the Marina Trailhead or Rice Farm Road in Dummerston.

Click through to read the full article here. Thanks to Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont for the feature!

Happy Winter!

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!

Cancelled: Saturday, July 30 Invasives Pulling Workday

Please note that the “last Saturday of the month” invasives work day is cancelled for this month. However, if you have worked with us in the past and can identify oriental bittersweet seedlings, and you would like to go ahead on out to the Riverstone Preserve and work, please feel free to do that. We appreciate your help! We will host another invasives work day on Saturday, August 27 from 9 AM to 11. Please put that date in your calendars. Thank you!

Trail Work Day: Saturday May 28

Image courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation

We will be removing invasive species from The Riverstone Preserve on the last Saturday morning of every month throughout the summer and fall. Please join us to learn about invasive species and help preserve a shared natural resource. All volunteers are welcome! We’ll announce upcoming trail work days here. Stay tuned!

This coming Saturday May 28, we are seeking volunteers for a special work day.

Dan Healey, a forester from Long View Forest, Inc. will be with us, to help us identify the seedlings of Oriental Bittersweet and some of the other invasive species that grow on the Riverstone Preserve (21 acres of land adjacent to the West River Trail).

You can walk or bike in from the Marina Trailhead to the northern boundary of the Riverstone Preserve (about 1 3/4-2 miles from the trailhead) or park at the Fox Farm Rd trailhead and walk or bike in from there (shorter walk). We’ll gather where the Fox Farm access road meets the West River Trail at 10 am, to start working, so give yourself time to get to the meeting place (about 1/2 hour).  

Bring work/gardening gloves, water, a snack, insect repellant. We’ll be mostly pulling seedlings that are easy to remove. It’s satisfying work to learn to identify and keep the invasive species under control on this special piece of property. We’ll be doing this on the last Saturday morning of every month throughout the summer and fall.  

Please email lowersection@westrivertrail.org to let us know you’re coming and/or with any questions. Thank you!

Work Day Details:
West River Trail Work Day, Riverstone Preserve
Saturday May 28 10 am – 12 pm (allow about 1/2 hour walk to get to meeting place)
Bring work/gardening gloves, water, a snack, insect repellant
Gather where the Fox Farm access road meets the West River Trail

West River Trail Tree Report

Happy Spring from the West River Trail! It’s so exciting to see the first wildflowers emerge. Read more below about the fate of some of the trees we planted last year as part of the 350 VT Rewilding project

Tree report and tree and wildflower photos courtesy of Jesse Wagner.

It’s amazing how much the Riverstone Preserve got scoured by the winter ice! The Hepatica, Dutchmen’s Breeches, Trout Lilies are in bloom and the Bloodroot and Trillium are starting to open.  

I was unable to locate the southernmost tree (Hackberry) that we planted last year with all of the new driftwood berms, but we found the tube that had previously protected it about 100’ away. This was another Hackberry tree along the river that was also directly affected by the scouring  movement of the giant ice chunks. I was just barely able to see this tube buried under brush completely flat and bend it back to shape. The tree is still alive!  Not sure how alive yet though. The hazelnuts by the new bridge are doing great but the ones out in the middle of the wetland have been deer browsed heavily. If they bud after all, I will put larger tubes on them to protect them from future browsing. I haven’t recently checked on the trees by the log near the picnic table in Riverstone Preserve trail, the two living trees at Rice Farm Rd kiosk or the two shagbark trees at the northwest corner of Riverstone Preserve trail, but I hope they are doing well.  

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 Benches

In 2021, we built and installed three more benches and two additional picnic tables along the trail. These amenities are making it easier for the trail to be enjoyed by all.  

Pictured above, trail users enjoying the new benches along the trail.

If you enjoy using the trail, please consider including The West River Trail in your year-end giving plan. Click through to learn more about making a donation.

A History Told by Nature

A new trail offers hikers a guided tour of the ecology of the West River, told through the eyes of the Abenaki people.

Thank you to The Commons for sharing this beautiful article. Text courtesy of Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons. Photo courtesy of the Atowi Project.

Originally published in The Commons issue #635 (Wednesday, October 20, 2021). This story appeared on page A1. Here is the link to the article.

Another piece of Abenaki history has been reclaimed with the creation of the Sibosen Trail. Pronounced SEE-boo-sehn, which is Abenaki for “river stone,” the trail runs along the West River in what’s known as the Riverstone Preserve, 21 acres of land owned by the Friends of the West River Trail that also includes 2,240 feet of shoreline.

The new trail takes a short loop off the main West River Trail and skirts the river’s edge.

With the installation of 21 informational signs, many of which include Abenaki language translations, the trail is now complete. That milestone was celebrated on Oct. 17 with a walk.

Dummerston forester Lynn Levine did the research for this project and composed the sign posts. Rich Holschuh, cultural researcher, provided information on the Sokoki, the band of Abenaki from the middle and upper Connecticut River Valley. Dummerston geologist John Warren also provided information.

Brattleboro Town Planner Sue Fillion said that the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board helped the Friends purchase the Riverstone Preserve parcel, and the Brattleboro Conservation Commission received a Tiny Grant from the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions to create an interpretive trail.

Kathleen White, a member of the Friends of the West River Trail, said the inspiration for the Sibosen Trail came during a walk with Levine not long after the Friends secured the Riverstone parcel in 2013.

White said they were walking down a footpath that led to the river and the idea came to her and Levine that “this would make a great trail.”

Levine said the West River was “so important to the Abenaki,” and that tribal representatives “were excited to be a part of this.”

According to Holschuh’s research, the West River is known as Wantastekw (“at the river where something is lost”) by the Sokoki Abenaki, whose people have been living along its shores for more than 12,000 years.

The river was a main travel route between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain (Bitawbakw) that was traversed by canoe and on foot.

On many of the signs posted along the trail, a QR code can work with cameras on hikers’ smart phones to access the voice of Holschuh, who pronounces the Abenaki translations on the signs.

The signs highlight the trees and vegetation found along the West River, and how the Abenaki made use of them. They also explain the geological history of the West River Valley.

Some of the signs include poems by Levine about the various trees. One tree on the trail is completely encircled by an Oriental Bittersweet vine, an invasive species common to Vermont’s woodlands.

Levine writes: “The bittersweet vine/Spirals around a tree/After a while you don’t know/Which is which/They look like lovers/But the vine makes the fire/That smothers the tree.”

White said the Friends have had frequent work parties along the trail to clear the invasive plants to give the native species room to grow — or, as she called it, “weeding the woods.”

American beech, white pine, red oak, black cherry, black locust, bigtooth aspen, bitternut hickory, white and black birches, musclewood, and striped maple are among the trees highlighted on the trail.

Levine, who has had a hand in constructing several hiking trails in the Brattleboro area, said her goal has always been “to connect people with the forest.” She says she is quite proud of how this trail turned out and of the many people involved to make it happen.

“This is a wonderful new community resource,” she said.