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

West River Trail Workday Sat July 23

wrt bridge july 2013Please join us this Saturday, July 23, 9 AM for a trail workday!

 We will be installing 2 culverts and cleaning some drainage ditches to improve drainage in heavy rains and do more work on removal and control of invasive plants.

The trail is in very good condition this year.  Our work will help keep the trail dry and easy to use.  Come help out for a couple of hours this Saturday morning! We will have fun and hope to have some refreshments.

Important:  This trip will be meeting at 9:00am. We will be  meeting at the Fox Farm Rd access.

Directions:  Fox Farm Rd is near the intersection of Black Mountain Rd and Rice Farm Rd. Fox Farm Rd is a right off of Black Mtn Rd from the Rice Farm Rd direction.  It is a left turn off Black Mtn Rd from the World Learning direction. Once on Fox Farm Rd, the trail head is a short distance down the road on the right.  Look for a group of volunteers congregating.

Bring: footwear for working in wet ground, gloves, a water bottle & bug spray. We have plenty of tools.  If you prefer to bring your own, we suggest: iron rake, hoe, or shovel.  Please label your tools clearly.

We look forward to working with you to improve the trail!  Thanks!

For more information, contact: Jason Cooper at jason.cooper10@gmail.com


The Conversation Continues on Route 30 Gateway Improvements

I-91 bridge Jan 2016The conversation continues on Route 30 gateway improvements. Excerpt from an article in The Commons.

At a May 24 informational meeting, consultants contracted to conduct the study released a draft existing-conditions report and sought feedback from an audience of approximately 20 people.

Alex Wilson of the Friends of West River Trail discussed plans for a pedestrian bridge across the West River to connect Route 30 to the trail. Plans for a cable pedestrian bridge slung under the new Interstate-91 bridge were abandoned, Wilson said. Costs for cabling were higher than expected and the bridge would sway too much, he said. Wilson, who also serves on the community advisory committee, said the Friends are instead investigating constructing a bridge at a narrower part of the river near the West River Park.

Full article available at The Commons website. Originally published in The Commons issue #359 (Wednesday, June 1, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

For more information click on the Place Sense website.

FWRT Annual Meeting and Open House

West River Railroad

A train departs the South Londonderry depot during the hey-day of the West River Railroad.

Friends of the West River Trail: Doings at the Depot!

The public is invited to attend an Open House and social hour, with refreshments provided, hosted by the Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT), to be held on Wednesday, March 23, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, in the South Londonderry Depot on Route 100.

At the Open House, visitors will be updated on the current projects involving both the West River Trail (South Londonderry to Brattleboro when completed) and the Depot itself. Representatives of both the Northern (Londonderry to Townshend) and Southern (Newfane to Brattleboro) trail sections will be on hand.

A highlight of the evening will be an update on the status of the West River Railroad Museum, being developed by the Historical Society of Windham County in their recently-acquired Old Newfane Railroad Station.

Plans for the 2016 West River Trail Run will be presented by a representative from the Collaborative. The 2016 event will take place on National Trails Day, June 4

The Open House will be preceded at 5:30 PM by a short business meeting of the FWRT Board, to which visitors are welcome to attend if they choose.

Please plan to join your friends and the Friends of the West River Trail for an enjoyable and informative evening.

South Londonderry Depot, 34 West River Street, South Londonderry, VT 05155

West River Trail in the News

West River Trail in the News

West River Trail Summer - 1West River Trail moves forward. Organization works on plans to improve the area, including trail design and river access By Wendy M. Levy.
Reprinted courtesy of The Commons

DUMMERSTON—Just like the former West River Railroad that once traveled from Brattleboro to its terminus at the South Londonderry Depot, the recreational trail that now lies on its railbed has seen its share of challenges. But, unlike the ill-fated railroad, progress on the trail keeps chugging along.

The West River Trail, developed and maintained by the Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT), is a publicly accessible system of paths meant for “educational, recreational, and alternative transportation purposes,” according to the FWRT’s website.

Off-limits to cars, the trail is used year-round by hikers, bicyclists, picnickers, joggers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers. It begins near the Marina Restaurant in Brattleboro and ends in South Londonderry.

Along its 36-mile journey, the trail is broken by Route 30, buildings, and some sections where the FWRT is still working on construction and securing access.

At the July 22 Dummerston regular Selectboard meeting, some members of the FWRT presented the board with an update on the group’s progress building the trail. Alex Wilson told the board the FWRT “has worked with the Vermont Nature Conservancy (VNC) to reroute the trail away from neighbors’ backyards.” He said the FWRT is currently working with the VNC on a Memorandum of Understanding to “finalize plans to improve the area, including trail design and river access.” The portion of the trail the FWRT is working on lies along Dummerston’s Rice Farm Road near the old Presby-Leland Quarry. The ownership of this stretch is a current point of contention between the FWRT and a few of the neighbors whose land abuts the railbed. The issue lies at the intersection of property rights, conflicting documents, and what happens when public utilities and resources obtain a right-of-way but then cease to exist and change ownership.

Jason Cooper, also with the FWRT, told The Commons the story of the West River Railroad and how it relates to the current challenges in developing the trail system. In the 1880s, the Vermont legislature approved the railroad that would later be known as “36 miles of trouble.” After a number of false starts and large and small debacles, the final owner who had worked hard with his wife to maintain the rails finally gave up. The railroad went bankrupt in 1936, and the assets were returned to the state.
But, the owners of the quarry in Dummerston needed the railroad to ship their granite to Brattleboro, so it could be sent “all over the world,” said Cooper. So, the quarry owners bought the railroad from “just north of the quarry to the center of Brattleboro,” Cooper said.

In 1938, a hurricane destroyed the bridge spanning the West River, and “the quarry gave up,” Cooper said. They sold the entire railroad to a New York salvage company. This included the rails, bridges, rolling stock, switches, and spikes — everything metal — which the salvage company stripped and sold into the lucrative steel market. The salvage company also took ownership of the railbed itself, including the rights-of-way that allowed the old railroad to pass through private property.

As the warranty deed for the property of one of the trail’s abutters says, “The premises are conveyed subject to such rights of way and easements as may exist upon or across the premises, of record or in fact, including but not limited to public utility easements, such rights, if any, as may be held by Vermont White Granite Quarries, Inc. or its successors, an [sic] the rights of the public in Town Highway #62.”

In early 2011, Cooper contacted the Salzburg Company, the salvage company that, at that time, owned the railroad that was once owned by the quarry. On May 16, 2011, Cooper bought the railroad from the company, and then transferred the deed to the FWRT.

Sigrid Pickering, one of the neighbors whose property crosses the old railbed, told the Selectboard at the July 22 meeting she had been “assured” by an unnamed “top official” that in 1936, the railbed right-of-way on her property reverted “to her.” She told the board she “questions what Jason Cooper purchased.”
(Pickering cancelled a scheduled interview with The Commons and declined further interviews.)

Wilson told the Dummerston Selectboard that the FWRT hired Eric Morse, of Morse Land Surveying, “to define ownership of the railbed.” Morse’s findings, in a letter dated Jan. 8, 2015, state the FWRT has the right to use the trail. As soon as the VNC gives the FWRT the go-ahead, clearing and maintaining the portion of the Rice Farm Road trail can begin.

Although a few neighbors seem displeased, Cooper said most of them “love it,” and he added some have donated land and money to help the FWRT’s efforts. None of the Friends have collected a dime for their work, Cooper said, noting some have spent upwards of $5,000 of their own funds to further the goal of establishing and maintaining a recreational and alternative-transportation trail along the West River.
Of the FWRT, Cooper said, “We’re just a group of volunteers who feel this is an incredible resource to the community.”

Originally published in The Commons issue #320 (Wednesday, August 26, 2015). This story appeared on page D1.
If you’d like to share this story on your website, please feel free to do so with credit to The Commons and a link back to commonsnews.org.


Rice Farm Road Trailhead Update

Rice Farm Road Trailhead Update

west river trail june 2013 7From the Friends of the West River Trail Lower Section Steering Committee:

We have been working to resolve a misunderstanding at the Rice Farm Road Trailhead area, where no trespassing signs have been posted for the last several months. We have researched the issue and recently sent letters in our effort towards resolution of the misunderstanding. We will post updates on the website as we have new information.

Feel free to email us with questions or comments at lowersection@westrivertrail.org. Thank you.

To view the letters, click on the links below.

Friends of the West River Trail Letter to Melvin Mayo 5-14-15

West River Trail Ownership Questions Legal Letter 2-11-15


Village and Downtown Revitalization Workshop Series: Making Things Happen

Village and Downtown Revitalization Workshop Series: Making Things Happen

Windham (Vermont) Regional Commission Join the WRC (Windham Regional Commission) on May 6th to learn what villages and downtowns in southern Vermont have undertaken to bring renewed vitality to their communities. The Friends of the West River Trail will highlight the steps they took to revitalize the South Londonderry Depot and the West River Trail. This event will offer valuable opportunities to network with other local communities and regional and state entities.

Where: South Londonderry Depot, 34 West River Street, South Londonderry, VT
When: Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 5:30-7:30pm
Who should attend: Individuals and groups who work on or are interested in working on village and downtown revitalization in southern Vermont.

To RSVP or for more information contact:
Susan McMahon: susan@windhamregional.org · (802) 257-4547 x114
Bill Colvin: bcolvin@bcrcvt.org · (802) 442-0713 x1
To RSVP by Doodle Poll:

If you have any additional questions about the workshop series, please contact Susan McMahon at susan@windhamregional.org or ext 114. We look forward to seeing you at our next workshop!

(In December 2012 the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the Bennington and Windham regions funding from the Disaster Recovery Grant program* to bring additional professional capacity to Southern Vermont to assist with economic recovery post Tropical Storm Irene. Through this grant, a major focus of the regional commissions’ work will be village and downtown revitalization and assisting municipalities with economic recovery. As part of that assistance, workshops such as this are being held.)

Friends of the West River Trail Open House & Annual Board Meeting

Friends of the West River Trail Open House & Annual Board Meeting

Dummerston Railroad BridgeThe public is invited to the Friends of the West River Trail Open House & Annual Board Meeting on Thursday January 29th at the South Londonderry Depot. The Meeting is at 5:30 pm, followed by a Social Hour with refreshments at 6 pm.
The meeting will include an update on important trail and depot projects and an introduction to the New West River Railroad Museum, under development by the Windham County Historical Society.
For questions and information about the annual meeting and open house, contact Greg Meulemans by email at meulemans@myfairpoint.net. Please join us on Thursday, January 29, 6-7:30 pm at the South Londonderry Depot.

2013 Annual Report

2013 Annual Report

wrt 1Dear Friends of the West River Trail,
We are pleased to announce the completion of our 2013 Annual Report, which recaps the very busy and eventful year at both the Upper and Lower sections, acknowledges all financial and in-kind donors and provides a financial overview. We hope you will take the time to read the report, which may be viewed or downloaded here in PDF format.

Also, in case you hadn’t heard — the Trail is OPEN again from the Marina Trailhead and continuing past the I-91 bridge construction site, thanks to a recently-completed detour.
See you on the Trail!

With all best wishes,
West River Trail Board of Directors
Greg Meulemans
Robert Brandt
Hazel Tracy
Sharon Crossman
Lester Humphreys
Paul Cameron