WILMINGTON -- Through the woods, the expanded Valley Trail will now connect Dover and Wilmington.
"The Valley Trail will provide a year-round recreational opportunity for visitors and residents alike," said Bi-Town Committee Chairman Ryan Holden. "It's a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of southern Vermont."
Starting from Reardon's Crossing, the footbridge in Wilmington, the trail will run approximately 14 miles to West Dover. The exit will be near the Carinthia portion of Mount Snow.
Although there are only a few spots where taking the road is required, most of the trail is located in the woods and intended for hiking and biking only. Currently, there are plans to make less of it dependent on taking roads.
"You can pick up the trail in many locations and do sections or the whole trail. It gives you that option," said Wilmington Trails Committee member Jake White, a hiking enthusiast.
In some parts of this trail, there is a real sense of wilderness, he added.
Wilmington Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk told the Reformer that she envisions people parking in one town, traveling on the trail to the other town then taking the Moover bus service back to where they parked.
A grand opening of the trail is scheduled for June 7 at 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to meet at the Hermitage Club Gatehouse. The spot was chosen because it is directly in between the two portions that link the towns.
Guided tours will be available after the ribbon cutting. There will be new maps and stickers handed out.
"We're looking at this as an economic development opportunity to develop the infrastructure within town and give residents and visitors more leisure activities to do, which will hence allow more people to come or keep them here a little longer," said Dover Economic Development Director Ken Black. "It's a great thing."
The project began as a product of Bi-Town Committee discussions. At meetings, members decide what goals should be considered that would benefit both towns.
A plan for the Valley Trail was formulated in January 2013, although officials agree that the idea was around for quite some time before then. According to Havreluk, it was a project that took longer than anticipated to complete. Both towns contributed $5,000 for signs, kiosks and the upcoming grand opening ceremony.
"The true purpose was to connect Dover and Wilmington through recreation rather than just roads," she said.
Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner Jeff Nugent assisted with developing the map. Parking spots will be listed on the maps, which will be available soon on the towns' websites, wilmingtonvermont.us and doververmont.com. If there are any issues or concerns with the maps, project leaders want to fix it for the next print. Havreluk can be reached at 802-464-8591 ext. 117.
White has walked the entire Valley Trail in one outing. However, he does not expect that to be done too often.
"I don't see a lot of people doing the whole thing in one shot because it's so accessible in many locations. If they're biking it, they may have more of an inclination to do that. A lot of people just take one section," said White.
His committee has put up a lot of the signs along the way. Members also cleared branches and trees that were in the way. He told the Reformer that it is still a work in progress and volunteers are welcome to assist with trail maintenance.
"A lot of it was done last year and right now, the snow and the ice has just barely gotten off some of the trails," said White. "Most trails are drying out fairly well."
Black's department put up signs along the Dover portion while the town's Highway Department handles general trail maintenance.
Much of the trail has existed before. A trail near Haystack Road in Wilmington, known as the Chimney Hill recreation trail, was incorporated into the project as well as Sherwood Forest in the Crosstown portion of the trail in Dover.
In Wilmington, permission from 19 property owners was needed for the project. In Dover, permission from only two property owners was necessary.
"It's good for all the parties," said Black.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.