Bridge Benches

If you’ve been out on the trail lately, you may have noticed some beautiful new handcrafted benches at the I-91 Bridge to Nature viewing platform.

The benches were made by Steve Shriner and Tom Bodett at the HatchSpace. The seat planks are laminated wood, made by Foard Panel (left over from another project), and donated by the HatchSpace. Tom made the bases for each bench and Steve put them together. Steve and Jason Cooper transported them to the trail and installed them on Sunday, March 22. Huge thanks to the HatchSpace, Foard Panel, Tom, Steve, and Jason. The benches are beautiful! Thanks to Alex Wilson for the photos.

We invite all trail users to take a moment to rest and enjoy the scenery from the new benches! 

Other improvements along the West River Trail include a bike rack and additional signage.

Please follow safe social distancing recommendations. Enjoy the trail!

West River Trail Featured in The Manchester Journal

Photo courtesy of Kris Radder, Brattleboro Reformer via the Manchester Journal.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
– Rachel Carson

For those seeking “social distancing” the way that Henry David Thoreau described it — a silent communion with the woods — Southern Vermont offers many places for a walk, a ramble or a hike.

The West River Trail was featured in a recent Manchester Journal article by Greg Sukiennik, about places to find quiet, natural beauty in Southern Vermont. Read the Full article in the Manchester Journal. Photo courtesy of Kris Radder, Brattleboro Reformer via the Manchester Journal.

The West River Trail: The former railbed of the misbegotten West River Railroad is currently split into two trail sections, with future plans to connect them into a single 36-mile trail. The lower section stretches from The Marina in Brattleboro to the old quarry on Rice Farm Rd in Dummerston. The upper section stretches from the former South Londonderry train depot to Townshend Dam, with several parking lots along the way, and is home to the annual West River Trail Run, scheduled for June.

Enjoy the trail! Be safe, be well, and embrace nature and the outdoors.

Volunteer Wanted!

West River Trail, Rice Farm Road Access

The Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT) Lower Section Steering Committee has a rewarding volunteer opening for someone who can help organize and file the papers documenting the work of making the West River Trail accessible to all.

Do you have a special interest or skill in organizing files/papers? Do you love nature trails? Would you like to help organize and document the work of a local non-profit? Do you have a little extra time in your schedule to help support the West River Trail?

Please email us at lowersection@westrivertrail.org if you are that special someone. We look forward to hearing from you!

Or maybe you know of someone else who may be interested? If so, please share this announcement with them. Thank you!

About the FWRT:
Organized in 1992, the Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the establishment of a 36-mile scenic trail through the West River Valley – eventually linking Brattleboro, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, Jamaica and South Londonderry.

The FWRT’s mission is 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.
Coordinate local, state and federal interests in planning, funding, construction, management and use of the trail system.

Rice Farm Road Trailhead Sign

West River Trail Rice Farm Road Sign, Photo by Stephen Shriner, March 2020

The West River Trail has a beautiful new sign at the Rice Farm Road trailhead. 

Gratitude and huge thanks go out to Jason Cooper, Mark Westa, Steve Shriner, Malcolm Moore, and Howard Printing.

* Jason Cooper and Mark Westa put the posts in the ground last fall.
* Steve Shriner crafted and painted the signs. 
* Malcolm Moore and Steve Shriner attached the signs to the posts. 
* Howard Printing, enlarged and printed the map for half the cost, as a donation-in-kind.

Stop by to check out the new sign and enjoy an early spring walk on the trail!

Tuesday Giving: The West River Trail

Milton Avery (1885–1965), Blue Trees, 1945. Oil on canvas, 28 × 36 inches. Neuberger Museum of Art, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, Purchase College, State University of New York. © 2016 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Milton Avery (1885–1965), Blue Trees, 1945. Oil on canvas, 28 × 36 inches. Neuberger Museum of Art, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, Purchase College, State University of New York. © 2016 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Please consider supporting the West River Trail on Giving Tuesday and in your end of year giving. With your support, we can continue to maintain and enhance the Trail for our local and visitor community.

People make trails. Take a walk down the West River Trail and you will see a cross section of our community. Couples strolling hand in hand, kids on their first bike ride, runners preparing for their first marathon, and awestruck out-of-state visitors getting a closeup view of the I-91 bridge. The West River Trail continues to flourish and has become a local destination.

The support of the trail has come about in large part because of the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers. The Friends of the West River Trail ensures that the trail is maintained by trimming and repairing the trailbed, contracting for invasives control, and providing signage and maps to spread the word about this important community asset. We work to grow the trail, with possible land acquisitions and extensions of the trail.

With your support, we look to continue this work in several ways over the coming year: 

  • Ongoing improvement of the West River trail. Over the coming year this will include the new sign on Rice Farm Road, benches, picnic tables and interpretive signs in the Riverstone Preserve. We also will continue our efforts at invasives control and drainage improvement. 
  • Partner with other trail networks with the goal of providing continuous trail access throughout Brattleboro. We have worked over the past year on a vision for connected trail networks. We strive to work with other trail organizations to create a trail network to provide not only recreational opportunities, but realistic modes of transportation to help our region lessen its dependence on automobiles, reducing contributions to climate change. A network of safe, functional, connected pathways is key to this vision.
  • Continuation of the trail from the West River south to the unused rail bridge crossing the Connecticut river just south of downtown. We are now working to understand the various rights of way needed and any legal obstacles to making this a reality.  

We would appreciate your support of these efforts though a year end gift. Click on the link to donate online or mail a donation to: West River Trail, Lower Section, 138 Elliot St, Suite 3, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.

Best wishes from the Trail, with thanks for considering a gift to the West River Trail.

FRIENDS OF THE WEST RIVER TRAIL

Lower Section steering committee:
Lester Humphreys (chair) 
Jason Cooper
Wendy Ferris
Matt Mann
Malcolm Moore
Steve Shriner
Jesse Wagner
Mark Westa
Kathleen White 
Alex Wilson

Fundraising committee:
Orly Munzing 
Brett Morrison 
Marcia Steckler 
Tom Yahn

Words on the Water: Stories of Wantastegok, the West River and Abenaki Presence

Words on the Water: Stories of Wantastegok, the West River and Abenaki Presence

Join the Brattleboro Words Project for a special discussion about the West River petroglyphs and our region’s enduring Abenaki presence.

The Brattleboro Words Project presents a special Roundtable Discussion on the West River petroglyphs and our region’s enduring Abenaki presence on Friday August 16 at 6 pm at The Marina Restaurant, 28 Spring Tree Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301.

Diver/Explorer Annette Spaulding, Rich Holschuh, and Dr. Jessica Dolan will present their research from a pontoon boat while guests view from The Marina’s outdoor deck and from their own boats, kayaks, and canoes gathered around in the water for an enlightening and fun evening.

At 7 pm the presentation will move off the water and into the adjacent Marinaville tent for open discussion.

To reserve an outdoor table for 6:00 PM dinner on The Marina’s deck, call (802) 257-7563.
Click through for more information at the Brattleboro Words Project website.

Since construction of the Vernon Dam flooded the Retreat Meadows 110 years ago, Abenaki petroglyphs—ancient images carved in stone—have rested submerged, unseen evidence of the significant Native presence all around us.  A special installment of the monthly Brattleboro Words Project’s free Roundtable Discussion series will be held on the waters of the West River/Connecticut River confluence to explore this presence and celebrate ongoing Vermont Land Trust conservation efforts adjacent to the site at The Marina Restaurant.  

Archaeologist and diver Annette Spaulding—whose 25-year search led to finding the petroglyphs, Rich Holschuh – member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, and anthropologist and Indigenous Studies scholar Jessica Dolan will present on the petroglyphs and their significance to the Western Abenaki community and our region as a whole. Brattleboro Historical Society President Joe Rivers will lead with a land acknowledgment and moderate the discussion. Reg Martell, Brattleboro Words Project Multimedia Producer conceived of and is producing the event.

The presentation will be given from a pontoon boat—Annette’s diving platform—from 6:00 to 7:00 PM, and the public is invited to gather round by boat, kayak, and canoe, or to observe from The Marina’s outdoor deck (call The Marina at (802) 257-7563 to reserve a deck table for dinner at 6:00 pm). After the presentation, attendees are invited to join Annette, Rich, and Jessica in the Marinaville tent (parking lot adjacent) for continued discussion and to learn more about their research on local indigenous history.

Spaulding, a certified Underwater Criminal Investigator, determined to find the petroglyphs after seeing a circa 1850 drawing that described them. She spent decades of research, did hundreds of dives (where she discovered many other historical artifacts) and dug through much sediment to find them in 2017. “This is a very sacred site for Native Americans,” Spaulding said. “The land should be undisturbed and protected forever.”

“The Petroglyphs here and in Bellows Falls are examples of an Indigenous form of art and textual communication about creation stories and the meaning of place” Dolan said. “My research with the Words Project is dedicated to highlighting the cultural history and ecology of Abenaki relationships with the greater Brattleboro area so the next generations can better understand the Indigenous histories of this place that we, and many others, have called home.” Dolan’s work is supported in part by the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.

Dolan and Holschuh are working on podcasts and school curriculum development on Indigenous studies for seven sites for The Brattleboro Words Project, a multi-year collaboration between the Brattleboro Historical Society, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, Write Action, Brooks Memorial Library and Marlboro College backed by a National Endowment for the Humanities matching grant and funding from The Windham Foundation, Edward Jones, Brattleboro Savings & Loan and other area sponsors.

Ready Set Paddle!

Join paddlers of all skill levels at the Annual Brattle Paddle! Racers can register on race day. Spectators are encouraged to watch from their own paddlecrafts on the river and along the shoreline and on bridges along the route. The more the merrier!

The Brattle Paddle
Sunday June 30, 2019
Registration: 8:30 am – 10 am
Race starts: 10:30 am 
Entry fee: $25.00
Racing distance: 9 miles
Recreational distance: 5 miles
Separate starts for different classes
Awards will be presented following the races

A light lunch will be provided under the party tent for all registered participants by The Marina On the Water.

Directions from North or South I-91 to Exit 3, South on Route 5 to The Marina On the Water (located right before the bridge where the West and Connecticut rivers meet)

For more information Contact: Sandy Harris at 603-363-4868 or racemonkey14@myfairpoint.net
Click through to read more about the Brattle Paddle on Upcountry Magazine.

Proceeds to benefit the West River Trail. 

The 7th Annual West River Trail Run

Join The Collaborative Saturday, June 1, 2019 for a beautiful run from South Londonderry, Vt. to Jamaica State Park. The route is 11 miles of fun and exciting terrain along the West River. We encourage all outdoor enthusiasts to participate individually or as a three-person relay team. There is also a 5K Fun Run with discounted registration for youth participants. All proceeds go to The Collaborative, a nonprofit providing healthy choices and activities for youth in the southern Vermont communities. For more information, call the office at 802-824-4200. For more information go to http://www.thecollaborative.us/westrivertrailrun.

Riverstone Preserve: Update on Invasive Plant Treatments

Dan Healey of Long View Forest and Jackie Comeau of Vt Fish & Wildlife survey invasive treatment results on the Riverstone Preserve. 

Don’t be concerned about all the dead plant material you are seeing from the trail along the Riverstone Preserve area! This past Tuesday morning, lower section steering committee members Kathleen,  Alex and Malcolm, had a tour of the results of the invasive plant treatments that were done on the Riverstone Preserve last fall, with Dan Healey of Long View Forest (who directed the treatment) and Jackie Comeau from the VT Dept of Fish & Wildlife (who monitors the work for the  EQIP grant funds from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) . In order to receive grant funds to pay for follow up treatments, at least 90% of the invasive species that were treated last fall had to have been eradicated. As the photo illustrates, the effect on invasive plants was dramatic.  Long View Forest will do a follow up treatment on the japanese knotweed and black swallow wort later this summer, and a third treatment in 2020.  After that, volunteers will be needed to keep these plants (that will inevitably make a come back) at a manageable level.  Along with the knotweed and black swallow wort, asiatic bittersweet, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, barberry and buckthorn were treated. It was lovely to see lots of ferns and other native plants springing up around the treated invasive plants–evidence of the effectiveness of the targeted treatment.  For more information about this project, you can email lowersection@wrt.org.