S. LONDONDERRY, Vt. – The Friends of the West River Trail, Inc. recently secured 13.7 acres of woodland in S. Londonderry, Vt., achieving strategic goals related to enhancing and expanding the existing West River Trail – an off-road path that is popular year-round with locals and visitors of all ages and abilities.
Overall, this opportunity brings the FWRT that much closer to realizing its founding vision of completing a 36-mile scenic, multi-modal trail linking the West River Valley towns of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, Jamaica, and South Londonderry, once connected by the West River Railroad, which ran from 1880 to the 1930s.
For the past 25 years, FWRT has been working in partnership with state and federal organizations including Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Vermont Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as private landowners, to reclaim and reconnect remnants of the original railroad bed and adjacent lands for year-round recreational use and multiple resource values.
“By acquiring this particular privately owned parcel, public access to what is known as the ‘upper section’ of the WRT (South Londonderry to Townshend Lake) can be improved for an even better user-experience,” says Greg Meulemans, current FWRT Board President.
“We are thrilled to finally secure this piece of property for all to use in the future. With ambitious fundraising to complete the transaction, clean up the remains of an old junkyard and redevelop this parcel, FWRT can move forward to preserve the very popular northern access point to the 16-mile section of the trail. Our plan is to enhance the access to the trail and the surrounding area by creating designated parking, building an informational kiosk and developing an expanded trail network.”
The FWRT concept of “an expanded trail network” is further supported by a concurrent neighboring land transaction by which the Nature Conservancy acquired and permanently protected 102 acres adjacent to the Winhall Brook Natural Area, already owned by the conservancy. The collective conservation of these parcels will help safeguard the West River itself and the freshwater species that rely on it for habitat, such as American shad, American eel, brook trout, and state-threatened freshwater mussels.
“This project is a great example of protecting a stage for biodiversity while also increasing public access to a community trail that helps connect people with nature. It’s a win-win to work with great local conservation partners like Friends of the West River,” said Jon Binhammer, Director of Land Protection for the Nature Conservancy.
Organized in 1992, the Friends of the West River Trail, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization working to: develop and maintain a publicly accessible system of paths along the West River corridor for educational, recreational and alternative transportation purposes; promote public awareness and enjoyment of the recreational path system and of the history, geology and biota of the West River valley; and coordinate local, state and federal interests in planning, funding, construction, management and use of the trail system. Please visit www.westrivertrail.org for trail maps, volunteer opportunities, and current information.
The Nature Conservancy in Vermont is a leader in safeguarding the natural resources of the Green Mountain State. We have helped conserve over 300,000 acres of land, 1,200 miles of shoreline, and we manage and maintain 55 natural areas that are open for hiking, fishing, snowshoeing and hunting. The Vermont chapter is proud to be connecting land, water, and wildlife for over 50 years. To learn more and support our important work, please visit www.nature.org/vermont or follow us on www.facebook.com/TNCVT.