BRATTLEBORO -- For more than 15 years, a small group of volunteers has been steadily, and quietly, trying to establish a public trail along the West River between Brattleboro and Dummerston.
The former railroad bed, that stretches nearly six miles from the Marina Restaurant in Brattleboro into Dummerston, has been used informally by hikers, cross county skiers and bird enthusiasts, but there has never been a proper trail system developed.
Finally, after years of hard work, some fundraising, and a fair dose of good luck, the group has obtained rights to the strip of land and are now ready to fully present their plan to the public.
On Monday, June 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Marina Restaurant, the Friends of the West River Trail will host a public information session to talk about the work that has been completed to date and also to gather support for the next stage of development.
"This event is a public launch party for the West River Trail," said Alex Wilson, who is one of the organizers who has been working on the project for more than a decade. "After more than 15 years of effort it is incredibly exciting to finally have a trail that's open and being actively used. It's a tremendous amenity for Brattleboro, Dummerston and the whole region."
Now that the land acquisition has been completed the group is setting out to raise money for the next stage of development.
The group wants to raise about $50,000 to
In the long term, the group is setting out to raise an additional $150,000 to obtain an adjoining piece of property and fund further trail improvements.
"This is an exciting event," said Jason Cooper, chairman of the Lower West River Trail Committee. "For a long time the work has been fragmented, and this is a major step to tie it all together."
The six-mile section that runs north out of Brattleboro is part of a longer trail system that extends all the way up the river.
An 18-mile section from Londonderry to Townshend has already been developed, and Cooper said the southern section is an important link.
He said there are plans to extend a trail system all the way into Brattleboro, which could hook up with an extensive network of trails on the New Hampshire side of the river.
Cooper also says the West River Trail could eventually become a commuting line for people living up the West River Valley.
The group has even talked about a pedestrian and biking bridge over the river that would join the trails up with Route 30 on the west side of the river.
"Monday is a public celebration to let people know what we have been doing and to ask them for support," said Cooper. "This is a great asset for the community and we still have a lot of plans that we want to share."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer .com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.