Support Your Local Nature Trail

Please consider a year-end donation to Friends of the West River Trail. Click here to make a donation.

December 2021

Greetings, 

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

New Benches on the Trail

The West River Trail is now home to two new beautiful benches.

The benches were built by Stephen Shriner using a design by Aldo Leopold. Great for taking a pause along the trail, the unique design of the benches has an upper rail as a support for taking a photo, using binoculars or simply savoring the view. They are made from the same white oak lumber that Jim used for the new picnic tables.

As always, improvements to the trail are a team effort, and made possible with the help of many hands. The benches were built and installed by Steve Shriner with land clearing and installation assistance from Alex Wilson. A RiseVT Amplify grant provided the financial support. Mark Anderson of Trevett Millworks donated the white oak lumber, Jesse Wagner made the connection for the donation of the lumber, and Jesse and Mark Westa picked up and delivered the lumber to Jim.

Photos by Alex Wilson.

West River Trail Featured on VPR

West River Trail Winter

The reports from earlier this year are in, and all across the state, the number of people using Vermont’s hiking trails was way up.

Whether it was the Long Trail, Vermont’s State Parks, or developed trails in our towns and cities, people flocked to the outdoors during the early months of the pandemic.

Listen to the full story at VPR online.

“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

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 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!

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.

Early Spring Trail Report (Southern Section)

The Southern Section of the West River Trail is emerging from the grip of winter’s snow and ice. Though patches of snow still hug the trail, the muddy sections are a sure sign of early spring.  Alongside the trail, hunks of ice cling to the banks of the West River, but the geese have returned to swim in the open waters. The rock cliffs are drenched with spring melt, the few remaining icicles disappearing rapidly, wildflowers to follow soon.

The West River Trail in November

Beautiful in all seasons! With the leaves gone from the trees, the trail in November is light and bright, open to the sky and the sunshine, with the river running alongside more visible.

Do you use the West River Trail? Know someone who does? If so, you might be interested in attending the upcoming Dummerston Development Review Board public hearing on Tues Nov 17th, 2015 at 7 pm at the Dummerston town offices at 1523 Middle Road, Dummerston Center, Vermont, when they will consider the following application:

A review of app #3418 by the Friends of the West River Trail for site plan review, conditional use approval and waiver to construct a kiosk and sign at the trail head on Rice Farm Road, Dummerston, a Rural district Riparian area and Special Flood Hazard Area. The hearing is open to the public. A public hearing notice is posted at the Rice Farm Road trailhead. For more information, contact Charlotte Neer Annis, Zoning Administrator, Town of Dummerston.