RICHFORD — Plans for a long-awaited extension of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail through Richford — on the books for over two decades — continue to progress despite earlier setbacks.
When completed, the path would consist of a half-mile bike and walk trail from Troy Street up to the center of the village and end at School Street. However, officials say progress has been stalled by delays due to securing easements, as well as the town taking “pauses” from the process during staffing changes as they work to secure additional grant funding.
The trail is funded through a $435,000 matching grant from the Agency of Transportation, originally written in 2000. The town of Richford is responsible for $43,500, of which $12,922 has already been credited. Engineering costs of $121,500 have also been billed on the project.
“Once completed, it will be a great asset to the Town of Richford and the region as a whole,” says Bethany Remmers, assistant director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission.
However, Remmers points out that trail and sidewalk projects using federal transportation funding take a long time because of the additional federal requirements that must be followed.
“Five to 10 years is typical. Having said that, this project has taken longer than normal,” she said.
The project needs easements from 11 parcels with 10 individual property owners.
“The town has secured easements for three parcels and continues to coordinate with the remaining property owners,” Remmers says.
While Remmers wouldn’t comment on ongoing negotiations with individual landowners, she did say several do not reside in town or the state.
Co-Economic Development Coordinator Levi Irish says that she secured one easement last week and is in the process of securing three more.
“This could tie up rivers and recreation. Unfortunately, that’s the issue in this town. We spend a long time in this town waiting for the other shoe to fall,” she said.
In a previous interview with The Messenger, former Richford selectboard chair Andy Derby expressed hope that the project could get the remaining easements.
“My theory, it’s an area of town that’s beautiful. It’s along the side of the river. It’s got potential. And if we can go in there and put this new path in and get it cleaned up…”
Derby says that he was able to acquire a number of easements last year.
“There’s five or six more that need to be done and then the project can go to bid and it’s been there for 22 years. Nobody’s done anything with it. And for me, before we can move forward and we can start new projects and write new grants we have to fix what we have, like, let’s finish what we got, let’s get the table cleaned off,” he said.
Selectboard member Tim Green did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.