A History Told by Nature

A new trail offers hikers a guided tour of the ecology of the West River, told through the eyes of the Abenaki people.

Thank you to The Commons for sharing this beautiful article. Text courtesy of Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons. Photo courtesy of the Atowi Project.

Originally published in The Commons issue #635 (Wednesday, October 20, 2021). This story appeared on page A1. Here is the link to the article.

Another piece of Abenaki history has been reclaimed with the creation of the Sibosen Trail. Pronounced SEE-boo-sehn, which is Abenaki for “river stone,” the trail runs along the West River in what’s known as the Riverstone Preserve, 21 acres of land owned by the Friends of the West River Trail that also includes 2,240 feet of shoreline.

The new trail takes a short loop off the main West River Trail and skirts the river’s edge.

With the installation of 21 informational signs, many of which include Abenaki language translations, the trail is now complete. That milestone was celebrated on Oct. 17 with a walk.

Dummerston forester Lynn Levine did the research for this project and composed the sign posts. Rich Holschuh, cultural researcher, provided information on the Sokoki, the band of Abenaki from the middle and upper Connecticut River Valley. Dummerston geologist John Warren also provided information.

Brattleboro Town Planner Sue Fillion said that the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board helped the Friends purchase the Riverstone Preserve parcel, and the Brattleboro Conservation Commission received a Tiny Grant from the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions to create an interpretive trail.

Kathleen White, a member of the Friends of the West River Trail, said the inspiration for the Sibosen Trail came during a walk with Levine not long after the Friends secured the Riverstone parcel in 2013.

White said they were walking down a footpath that led to the river and the idea came to her and Levine that “this would make a great trail.”

Levine said the West River was “so important to the Abenaki,” and that tribal representatives “were excited to be a part of this.”

According to Holschuh’s research, the West River is known as Wantastekw (“at the river where something is lost”) by the Sokoki Abenaki, whose people have been living along its shores for more than 12,000 years.

The river was a main travel route between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain (Bitawbakw) that was traversed by canoe and on foot.

On many of the signs posted along the trail, a QR code can work with cameras on hikers’ smart phones to access the voice of Holschuh, who pronounces the Abenaki translations on the signs.

The signs highlight the trees and vegetation found along the West River, and how the Abenaki made use of them. They also explain the geological history of the West River Valley.

Some of the signs include poems by Levine about the various trees. One tree on the trail is completely encircled by an Oriental Bittersweet vine, an invasive species common to Vermont’s woodlands.

Levine writes: “The bittersweet vine/Spirals around a tree/After a while you don’t know/Which is which/They look like lovers/But the vine makes the fire/That smothers the tree.”

White said the Friends have had frequent work parties along the trail to clear the invasive plants to give the native species room to grow — or, as she called it, “weeding the woods.”

American beech, white pine, red oak, black cherry, black locust, bigtooth aspen, bitternut hickory, white and black birches, musclewood, and striped maple are among the trees highlighted on the trail.

Levine, who has had a hand in constructing several hiking trails in the Brattleboro area, said her goal has always been “to connect people with the forest.” She says she is quite proud of how this trail turned out and of the many people involved to make it happen.

“This is a wonderful new community resource,” she said.

Trail News: Trail Reroute opens!

Huge thanks to the bridge prep crew – Elia Hamilton, Jesse Wagner, Malcolm Moore, Steve Shriner and Alex Wilson – for their contribution to trail improvements! All of this work takes financial and volunteer support. To help with these ongoing efforts to improve the trail, please consider a donation to the West River Trail. We welcome your support in any way you would like to give. Sign up on the website to receive email alerts about Volunteer Work Days and other events, and/or go to our Donate page to make a donation! Thank you!

The letter below is posted on behalf of Steve Shriner, West River Trail Steering Committee. Thanks to Alex Wilson for the photos of the bridge building workshop.

The WRT trail took a new turn recently with the opening of a rerouted portion of the trail in the Riverstone Preserve. This area, known locally as the “sandy area”, suffered from erosion and silt buildup from flooding. The flow of water across the trail from an upstream ravine had become more or less permanent.

The new trail parallels the old and includes a bridge over the stream made from locally sourced locust. In addition to the efforts of our volunteer steering committee, a volunteer group of employees from Nasdaq OneReport completed the final bridge assembly and helped finish the trail. Thanks to all who supported this project!

Projects like this enhance the Trail and make it more accessible and safe for all to use. To help with these ongoing efforts, please consider a donation to the West River Trail. Donate information can be found on our Donate Tab from the home page of the West River Trail website, and by clicking here. Thanks!

Volunteers needed to Pull Oriental Bittersweet

West River Trail, Autumn 2016

Volunteers are needed to pull Oriental Bittersweet on the Riverstone Preserve, Sunday, October 24 from 9:30 to noon. Hope you can join us!

This might be our last outing to work on removing invasive plants before the frost. It’s fun, meditative, educational, and so important for controlling these plants that can take over and weaken the trees. Our local botanist friend, Mike Duffy, will be there to help identify invasives and other interesting plants.

Special bonus! You will have an opportunity to view the interesting new interpretive trail on the Riverstone Preserve–the Sibosen Trail (Abenaki for River Stone).

Wear weather appropriate clothing. Bring work gloves, water, and a snack. We’ll meet at 9:30 at the junction of the Fox Farm Rd access trail and the West River Trail. (Just past the northern boundary of the Riverstone Preserve). For more information or to let us know you’re coming, please contact us at lowersection@westrivertrail.org. Thank you and hope to see you there!

Reminder: Volunteer Work Day this Sunday

Join us on Sunday, September 26, 9:30-noon to learn how to identify rare plants and invasives with Mike Duffy, local botanist, and help clear the Riverstone Preserve of invasive plants, too! Bring work gloves, water, insect repellant, and snack. We’ll meet at the intersection of the Fox Farm Access road and the West River Trail. Email us at lowersection@westrivertrail.org to let us know you’re coming. Thank you!

West River Trail Workday

Learn plant ID and pull invasives while you’re doing it!

Join local botanist Mike Duffy and volunteers on Sunday, August 29 and/or Sunday, September 26 from 9:30 to 12:30 to help manage invasive species on the Riverstone Preserve.

We will meet where the Fox Farm Access trail meets the West River Trail, then go together onto the Riverstone Preserve to continue where we left off on our last work day on August 1st.
 
It’s nice, quiet work with time for conversation and identifying invasives as well as other plant species. We will be working mostly on pulling Oriental Bittersweet seedlings, which come up easily.

Please be in touch with any questions or to let us know you’re coming at lowersection@westrivertrail.org.

Thanks and hope to see you there!

1-Day Closure on the Riverstone Preserve June 16

West River Trail dames rocket and ferns West River Trail dames rocket and fernsAs you may know, FWRT has been contracting with Longview Forest to treat woody invasives on the Riverstone Preserve adjacent to the West River Trail (between the trail and the river). Access to the Riverstone Preserve will be off limits on Tuesday, June 16, because a follow up treatment will be occurring (weather permitting). Off limits will be the section of the WRT that goes through the Riverstone Preserve, as well as the smaller trail that loops around the preserve. Signs will be hanging at the trailheads to inform the public. The Riverstone Preserve will re-open on Wednesday, June 17. We apologize for the inconvenience!

West River Trail Spring Workday

Pictured are Malcolm Moore and Jim Webster, clearing a fallen tree on the Riverstone Preserve trail.  Photo by Alex Wilson.

Recent maintenance work on the West River Trail tackled clogged drainage ditches and fallen trees. Trail workers cleared drainage areas and chainsawed downed logs. A huge thanks to trail volunteers for their hard work! 

Happy spring, and enjoy the trail!

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.

River Loop Trail Closed Saturday, September 29 for Invasive Plant Treatment

riverstone-preserve-wrt-sept-2018-jeff-nugentThe River Loop on the Riverstone Preserve will be closed on September 29th for 1 day only. There will be signs about the closure posted at the junctions of this trail with the West River Trail, and at the Rice Farm Road and Marina trail heads. We are sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we deal with the important issue of invasive plant mitigation on this special piece of land between the river and the West River Trail.

Riverstone Preserve Trail Closure

riverstone-preserve-wrt-sept-2018-jeff-nugent
RIVERSTONE PRESERVE TRAIL CLOSURE UPDATE! The West River Trail will be open again from the Marina trail head to the Rice Farm Rd trail head, starting Wednesday, Sept 5, for the rest of the week and until further notice. The trails on the Riverstone Preserve will be closed this Wednesday and Thursday, due to the invasive plant treatment. There will be signage explaining which trails are closed.

There will most likely be more trail closures announced during the fall for this purpose.

Thank you for your patience!

RIVERSTONE PRESERVE TRAIL CLOSURE

The Friends of the West River Trail received a grant from the USDA and have hired Long View Forest, Inc to treat Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose, Black Swallowort, Buckthorn, Japanese Barberry (and possibly a few others).

Monday, Sept 3 and Tuesday, Sept 4 the Riverstone Preserve portion of the West River Trail will be closed for treatment on invasive plants. The main West River Trail will be closed where it passes along the Riverstone Preserve. Trails within the Riverstone Preserve will be closed. There will be signs at the trailheads at the Marina and Rice Farm Road, and at either end of the section of the Main trail that will be closed. We are sorry for the inconvenience.