From Dream to Reality

viewsPosted on behalf of Alex Wilson.

In this in-depth article, Friends of the West River Trail Steering Committee member and Dummerston resident Alex Wilson describes efforts going back to 1997 to formalize the West River Trail on the lower section of the West River Railroad bed. The article is from Views of Dummerston, Spring 2018.  Click on pages 1, 12 and 13 to the read the article on the Views website. The full 3-page article can be viewed as a single document by clicking on this PDF – views-of-dummerston-from-dreams-to-reality-spring-2018

39 Steps at the South Londonderry Depot

The_39_Steps_1935_British_posterOn Tuesday, May 15, at 7 pm, the Friends of the West River Trail will present “The 39 Steps” a Hitchcock classic at the South Londonderry Depot.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.
South Londonderry Depot, 34 River St., South Londonderry, VT.

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: www.westrivertrail.org 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: www.nature.org/vermont.

Support the West River Trail

Dear Friend of the West River Trail:

As 2017 draws to a close, we invite you to include the Friends of the West River Trail (Lower Section) in your year-end giving.

As you may know, the Friends have faced some legal issues arising from property ownership questions along the trail. While the court has ruled in our favor, this matter has considerably depleted our financial resources and our ability to carry on the maintenance and development of the trail.

Your year-end gift will help us to continue our work on:
Repair and maintenance of the trail surface and drainage culverts (including repairs of washouts and sand intrusion resulting from this summer’s heavy rains)
Control of invasive species in the Riverstone Preserve
Protection of rare and endangered species along the trail
Extension of the trail to the downtown Brattleboro railroad station, and south from there to the old railroad bridge that connects to a large network of New Hampshire trails
Potential acquisition of additional land adjacent to the trail
Promotion of trail usage through distribution of maps as well as our website and Facebook page

If you have not visited the trail recently, please do! At the Marina trailhead, you’ll find a new information kiosk with trail map dispensers. Under the magnificent new I-91 bridge, the trail is fully restored and there is a beautiful platform for viewing the West River. Just south of the Riverstone Preserve is a stone stairway to the river’s edge, constructed by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. The trail is seeing more and more usage, year-round, by hikers, runners, cyclists, skiers and snowshoers.

Again, please help the Friends with a generous donation to permit us to continue to protect, improve and extend the West River Trail.

To donate online (credit card or PayPal), please click here. Or, mail your gift to West River Trail (Lower Section), 138 Elliot St, Suite 3, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.

With all best wishes,

FRIENDS OF THE WEST RIVER TRAIL Lower Section steering and fundraising committees: Lester Humphreys (chair), Kathleen White, Jason Cooper, Malcolm Moore, Alex Wilson, Matt Mann, Wendy Harrison, Judy Davidson, Orly Munzing, Brett Morrison, Marcia Steckler, Tom Yahn, Martin Langeveld

Court Rules in Favor of West River Trail

West River Trail, Rice Farm Road AccessFrom the Brattleboro Reformer, Friday, November 10, 2017. http://www.reformer.com/stories/court-rules-in-favor-of-west-river-trail-group,524346

The public has rights, under a “prescriptive easement,” to use a portion of the West River Trail in Dummerston, according to a ruling issued on Wed., Nov. 9 by Judge John W. Valente of the Windham County Superior Court.

The ruling also established that the non-profit group Friends of the West River Trail owns title to a 2-acre disputed parcel of land including the trail itself, located at the Rice Farm Road end of the trail in Dummerston.

At that location, Melvin L. Mayo, the owner of several parcels of land along Rice Farm Road, had erected barriers intended to prevent use of the trail. In a judgment issued as part of his decision, Valente ordered that Mayo is “enjoined from interfering with the public’s use of the railbed [the trail] for recreational purposes.”

Further, he ruled that “members of the public may remove all fencing, debris, barriers, or signs discouraging use of the railbed in a fashion consistent with the terms of the easement.”

A lawsuit had been brought by the Friends organization against Mayo, after efforts to resolve Mayo’s land claims out of court were unsuccessful.

The prescriptive easement, as described by Valente in his ruling, provides that “all members of the public may use the railbed that runs through Mr. Mayo’s southerly parcel for non-motorized recreation. This includes, but is not limited to, running, cycling, walking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.” The easement is based on trial testimony making clear the continuous use of the trail by the public over many decades.

Valente added that “the public may make reasonably necessary repairs to continue this use, such as clearing brush, mowing and repairing flooding or culverts that impede recreational use of the trail.”

The trail is located on the railbed of the former 36-mile West River Railroad, which operated from Brattleboro to Londonderry from 1880 to 1936. After the railroad ceased operations, the iron rails were sold for scrap, and much of the route became a trail, used informally for decades for recreational purposes.

Friends of the West River Trail was founded in 1992 to repair and restore the trail, beginning with the 16-mile upper section from Londonderry to Townshend. In 2012, the group began repairing and improving the 3.5-mile lower section from Brattleboro to Dummerston. It acquired several adjoining parcels, including the land at the Rice Farm Trailhead involved in the dispute, and the 21-acre Riverstone Preserve located in Brattleboro.

Lester Humphreys, chair of the steering committee for the lower section of the trail, said, “This removes any doubts the public may have had about using the full length of the lower section of the trail, from the trailhead near the Marina Restaurant all the way to Rice Farm Road. We have enjoyed good relations with many of the landowners along the trail, and as stewards of the trail, we look forward to working with all of them in the future.”

Humphreys also pointed to the newly-restored trail section below the new I-91 bridge. “All the bridge work is done now, and that section has been beautifully restored by Bazin Brothers, as contractor for PCL, the bridge builders,” he said.

West River Trail Workday Report

 

WRT trail workday June 2017Huge thanks to the 5 volunteers who showed up to help repair the West River Trail.
Below is Jason Cooper’s report from the Trail Work Day.

We got an incredible amount done today!
Repaired erosion on the steeps of the I-91 bridge bypass.
Trimmed back brush and grass on the bypass.
Cleaned out and repaired many culverts from I-91 (mile 2) to just before mile 3.8.
Removed many downed trees.
Filled many holes in the trail.

The biggest surprise was the incredible washout on the Fox Farm Road access. It is as bad as it was after Hurricane Irene. This will take some structural redesign. There is also still some work to do between mile 3.8 and the foot bridge at mile 4.1, and a ditch at mile 2.8. Beyond the foot bridge there are several erosion cuts in the trail bed that will need fill trucked in.
WRT trail workday June 2017 - 2
Photos are on the Fox Farm Road trail access. Photos by Jason Cooper. The trail really needs your help! If you use the trail regularly, please consider lending a hand on the next workday or making a contribution to help maintain the trail. Email us at lowersection@gmail.com with any questions.

 

A Southern Vermont Trail for All Seasons

West River TrailA letter from Friends of the West River Trail, Lower Section:

Dear users of the West River Trail,
The Trail has become an important feature in our local landscape and we hope you have had a chance to experience the trail for yourself recently. If so, you may have encountered other trail users walking, jogging, x-c skiing, snowshoeing, birding and biking, and you no doubt noticed improvements to several sections of the trail. During June and July, volunteers completed essential maintenance tasks of replacing damaged culverts, moving fallen rocks and leveling trail surface to control erosion, cover roots, and fill in holes. New this summer in the Riverstone Preserve is the installation of a beautiful picnic table hand-crafted from locally harvested white oak. Looking ahead, we’d like to embark on professional removal and suppression of invasive species that – despite on-going volunteer efforts to combat them – have taken hold and threaten the rich biodiversity along the trail. Please consider making a donation to help support the effort to maintain and improve the trail for all users.

To make a secure donation, click on the DONATE link or click on the tab above to go to the West River Trail DONATE PAGE. Checks may be mailed to Friends of the West River Trail, Lower Section, 138 Elliot Street, Suite 3, Brattleboro, VT 05301.Please help our community enjoy the trail for seasons to come by making a donation. Thank you!

Friends of the West River Trail is a registered 501 (3) (c) organization.

Please feel free to contact us via this website, by clicking on the CONTACT tab above.

Friends of the West River Trail Steering Committee: Lester Humphreys, Chair, Jason Cooper, Matt Mann, Malcolm Moore, Kathleen White & Alex Wilson

Friends of the West River Trail Fundraising Committee: Judy Davidson, Chair, Martin Langeveld, Brett Morrison, Orly Munzing, Marcia Steckler & Tom Yahn