Trail-building efforts in Addison County: lessons learned

This great summary of the discussion at the June 4th, 2019 meeting of the Walk-Bike Council of Addison County was compiled by Carrie Macfarlane.

  1. Working within existing organizational and/or governmental structures helps to ensure sustainability. It also establishes eligibility for grant funding. For example, in Bristol, the Bristol Recreation Club helps care for the Bristol Trail Network because their mission is to maintain outdoor recreation space.

  2. Seeking partnerships increases community buy-in and labor supply. For example, in Bristol, the Bristol Historical Society and the Bristol Conservation Commission partnered with the Bristol Trail Network to establish a loop that brings visitors to the foundations of the Bristol Manufacturing Company.

  3. When landowners are uneasy about allowing an easement, building other segments of the trail first allows them to see how it might affect them.  Often, they come to view the trail and its supporters as friendly neighbors, and they get on board. Ultimately though, community building is more important than trail building, so if a landowner says no, alternative routes should be selected.

  4. Creating a vision statement helps with both decision-making and publicity. For example, from Bristol:
    • The mission of the Bristol Trail Network is to create and maintain trails around Bristol
    • … to promote access to and appreciation for natural, historical, and cultural resources in the vicinity & to support the recreation and education of residents and visitors alike
    • … to foster human connections within our community, tie us all more closely to our landscape, and enhance Bristol’s potential as an all-seasons destination for recreation and tourism

  5. Establishing a maintenance plan is crucial. Without one, a trail will cease to exist.
    • Who will keep each segment of the trail clear and inviting? What are the expectations?  How often will they check it? What should they do if heavy-duty maintenance is needed?
    • In Bristol, trail ambassadors post to Front Porch Forum to announce walks on their segments of the trail. This increases visibility and use.

  6. The Walk-Bike Council of Addison County and Local Motion in Burlington can provide advice and expertise. In addition, Local Motion can provide technical assistance and infrastructure for communication and fundraising.

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