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!
The West River Trail may be Vermont’s oldest transportation path. Native Americans called the West River “Wantastiquet” or “waters of the lonely way,” and the Wantastiquet path was an important connection from the West River valley and Fort Dummer in Brattleboro over the Green Mountains to Otter Creek and Lake Champlain. In 1879, this path was developed into the West River Railroad.
The public is invited to join the Dummerston Historical Society for a program on the History of the West River Railroad via Zoom on Thursday, July 21 at 7 pm.
Following a brief business meeting, Glenn Annis, a resident of Dummerston, who is considered the foremost authority on the West River Railroad, will share his research that began close to four decades ago.
Have you viewed the big stone bridge piers beside Route 30 near the Covered Bridge? Have you wondered why they are where they are? Those towers are about all that is left of the West River Railroad, a 36 mile narrow gauge line, that began in 1878 until the railroad went out of business in 1934. Glenn will talk about the history of the railroad, how it was built, the cause of its demise, and will show photographs of the railroad and the depots along the way.
If interested in attending, join The Dummerston Historical Society by Zoom:
Meeting ID: 839 5931 2783
Questions: Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org
The West River Trail was recently featured in The Berkshire Eagle as one of five places to birdwatch in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont.
A walk along the lower section of the West River Trail, which stretches from The Marina in Brattleboro to an old quarry on Rice Farm Road in Dummerston, will provide views of rich landscapes, railroad artifacts, and plenty of breeding and migratory birds. Birds you might spy on your walk on the 3.5-mile path, built on the rail bed of the former West River Railroad, include sandpipers, egrets, herons, kingfishers, woodpeckers, swallows, wood thrush, starlings and bald eagles.
Article by Jennifer Huberdeau, The Berkshire Eagle Jun 22, 2022. Click through to read the full article in the Berkshire Eagle.
Volunteers are needed to help pull invasives on the Riverstone Preserve on Saturday morning, June 25, from 9 am to 11 am.
We’ll mostly be identifying and pulling the seedlings of Oriental Bittersweet. Dan Healey, our forester from Long View Forest, Inc. will not be able to be with us that day, but there will be others who can help identify the 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 from the Marina Trailhead to the northern boundary of the Riverstone Preserve (it’s about 1 3/4 to 2 miles from the trailhead) or you can 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 9 am, so give yourself time to get to the meeting place (about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, depending on how you’re getting there and how fast you go).
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.
Mark the last Saturday morning of every month on your calendar for more opportunities to help with this task. Thank you and hope to see you there!
Please email email@example.com 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 June 25, 9 to 11 am (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
Some Facts about Oriental Bittersweet, courtesy of Vermont Invasives.
Asiatic bittersweet is a deciduous, woody vine that climbs saplings and trees and can grow over 60 feet in length.
The alternate, elliptical to circular leaves are light green in color and 2-5 inches long.
Small, inconspicuous, axillary, greenish-white flowers bloom from May to early June. Oriental bittersweet closely resembles American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). The main difference: Celastrus scandens has flowers and fruits at the terminal ends of branches; Celastrus orbiculatus has flowers scattered along the entire stem.
The small globose fruits are green when young; ripen to yellow; then split to reveal showy, scarlet berries that persist into winter.
Image courtesy of Vermont Invasives.
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.
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.
Two years in with the COVID pandemic, it has felt really good to be part of an organization that’s providing a safe recreational venue in the Brattleboro area. As we saw in 2020, West River Trail usage has remained high throughout 2021—and it’s understandable why: most of the trail is wide enough for trail users to enjoy time connecting with one another yet be safely distanced. This has been good for residents of Brattleboro and surrounding towns, and it has been good for our economy, with the area increasingly recognized for the recreational resources it offers.
But at Friends of the West River Trail we’re not resting on our laurels. We are working actively to improve the trail, to provide rest areas along the trail, 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 support to work:
- Through periodic work parties, we’re continuing our work to remove invasive plants from the 22-acre Riverstone Preserve. Following professional services to remove a variety of non-native plants, including oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, buckthorn, black swallowwort, and knotweed, we have been out there controlling the residual seedings of these plants that appear. And it’s so satisfying to see that native plants are coming back!
- We built and installed three more benches along the trail in 2021 and two additional picnic tables. These amenities are making it easier for the trail to be enjoyed by all.
- We now have interpretive signs along a side trail in the Riverstone Preserve, called the Sibosen Trail (Abenaki for river stone). These signs focus on the area’s natural history and Abenaki heritage.
- We installed a low bridge across a sandy outwash area that has always been hard to maintain. This will help bicyclists from getting bogged down in sand and flowing water during periods of heavy runoff, while also providing a view of a beautiful ravine.
- 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 purchasing additional land to expand the Riverstone Preserve and ensure protection of the entire Lower Section trail corridor. We can’t share details now, but we are hopeful that we will be able to increase the land area that Friends of the West River Trail actually owns and can fully manage for biodiversity and recreational opportunities.
- And 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 take advantage of land acquisition and easement protection opportunities as they come along, we need money in the bank. Please consider supporting our work.
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 through a year-end gift. You can donate online at https://westrivertrail.org/donate/
Thank you and best wishes for a healthy and safe 2022.
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
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 new trail offers hikers a guided tour of the ecology of the West River, told through the eyes of the Abenaki people.
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.
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!