“There’s a certain peace that I feel walking along this river. Nothing like walking near water, or being near water that soothes the soul, so to speak. It’s consoling during this time of great anxiety and isolation.” – Robert Peeples, Brattleboro resident
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’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
The Windham Regional Commission does routine counts of the use of the West River Trail. Counts from this past April and September show an increase in trail use since COVID-19 for both walkers and bicyclists. Great to see that so many of us are able to utilize the West River Trail during this challenging time.
A big thanks to Jeff Nugent for his work on tracking trail use and for creating and sharing this graph. For more information on the work of the WRC, please visit their website at windhamregional.com. Click on the image above for the full 2 page report.
Keep yourself and others safe on the West River Trail by following posted COVID-19 safety protocols.
Please share this area safely and responsibly. Use the trail only if you feel well and have not been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Practice social distancing – maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and those not in your family. Wear a mask. Save N95 masks for healthcare professionals; use a homemade cloth mask, purchased mask, or bandana. Avoid shared surfaces such as benches, picnic tables, railings. Consider less traveled trails if the trail or parking lot appears crowded.
If you use the trail regularly, and are in a position to support the trail, please consider making a donation to help maintain the trail. The Friends of the West River Trail is a registered 501 (3) (c) organization. Click HERE TO DONATE.
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 Bensonwood (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, Bensonwood, 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!
People get some exercise on a sunny day at the West River Trail, in Brattleboro Vt., as they try to keep some distance during the COVID-19 outbreak on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Photo courtesy of Kristopher Radder, Brattleboro Reformer. Click through to the Brattleboro Reformer for the full photo.
“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.
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?
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.
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!