ST. ALBANS – The town wants to upgrade existing trails in the St. Albans Town Forest as well as add additional trails for non-motorized use.
A supporter of the project, RiseVT supplied a $2,500 grant, matched by the town, to create a comprehensive trail plan. “We wanted to see how the community could embrace a healthy lifestyle by focusing on trails,” said Dorey Demers, RiseVT health coordinator.
The results from a town survey showed that the forest was seen as an under utilized recreational area, said Jessica Frost, RiseVT St. Albans health advocate. There was interest from organizations to build mountain biking trails and perform some trail work on existing ones.
In the early fall, trail development company Sinuosity, LLC. assessed the current trail system and collected data on existing structures, areas that needed improvement, erosion, trail widening and locations for new trails.
With the data and input from the St. Albans Town forest planner, RiseVT and stakeholders, Brooke Scatchard and Mariah Keagy of Sinuosity, LLC developed the plan for trail improvements and additions.
The goal was to provide “appealing, nearby opportunities for physical activity and promote healthy lifestyles” for residents of St. Albans Town, according to the plan.
To achieve this, the 2.65 miles of existing trails needed to be enhanced by increasing the variety of people it could serve, as well as making them sustainable and maintainable.
“It’s such a beautiful space up there,” Demers said. “It’s gorgeous.” She added that she had been unaware of the facility and was pleased to explore its potential.
For the existing trails, the plan suggests adding a short reroute to the Bird Patch Trail where the path follows close to a stream, and creating some form of drainage for a wet section of the road to Beaver Pond-West.
The road to Beaver Pond-East should be routed to a drier area and the VYCC Loop West needs a few alterations to improve the path for bike travel and to prevent tread widening and erosion, according to the recommended improvements.
For the Intro Loop, the plan recommends adding a northern section of the trail, to loop it back around to the road to Beaver Pond. It would allow for more people of different abilities to use the trail.
The total cost of these recommended improvements is estimated at $8,045, including labor, materials and equipment.
To be able to build upon the space is amazing, Demers said.
The plan also suggests the creation of two miles of trail, which would up recreational opportunities on the property to 43 percent, according to the comprehensive trail plan.
The new trails are designated for all types of use from walking to running to hiking and snowshoeing. A 2,030 foot Saddle Trail would provide access to a ledge with seasonal views. More than 3,500 feet of Top Loops would use rugged terrain to make a trail for runners and advanced mountain bikers.
“The new plan is trying to designate trails for specific purposes,” Frost said. There are trails for mountain bikers, designed and built specifically for them.
Parts of the bird trail will be widened so that school groups and bird fanatics can go out there, she said.
“I’d love to see more users up there,” Frost said. Rise VT’s goal is to get more people using the trails and more active, she said.
The cost for the new trails is estimated to be $45,620 for construction and $12,180 for bridgework and other structural additions to the new trails.
According to the plan, there are simple ways to maintain the trails and keep them user friendly year round. It recommends an annual maintenance patrol, in which trees, branches and leaves that clutter the trails are removed.
Then if the trails are lightly monitored during the popular seasons, long-term trail degradation can be avoided.
Maintenance will mostly be done by volunteers, Frost said, from Public Works and the Franklin County Mountain Bike Club.
In addition, with proper trailhead signage and trail use education, users could learn how to take care of the paths and avoid damaging the wet or loose soil areas.
In order for the plan to become an actuality, there needs to be funding for labor and equipment costs. If community members became involved and volunteered their time, labor costs would drop.
“The idea is to start a capital campaign to raise money to do the work all at once,” Frost said. “It would have the best impact on the trails and wildlife.”
The plan lists a number of grants for trails and parks that could be applied for to help with funding, ranging from $500 to $50,000.
The first known deadline is Jan. 31 for the $10,000 People for Bikes – Community Grant.
“I don’t see it becoming a tourist draw,” Frost said about the town forest. “But it’s a great resource for locals.”
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RiseVT is funded by the Vermont Health Care Innovation Project having won a two-year $400,000 grant in 2014 to implement its programs. Visit www.risevt.com to learn more. The blog page on the website has further information about the town forest.