WILMINGTON -- Trails Committee member John Gannon says the first step in seeing if sure-pack gravel can be placed on parts of the Valley Trail -- from the Gatehouse at the Hermitage Club to downtown -- will be retaining an attorney to give the town a legal opinion so the project will not run afoul of Act 250.
"There's an exception to Act 250 to municipal projects as long as it's under 10 acres. However, when part of the land is subject to Act 250, the town needs to get an amendment even though it's a permit for the landowner," he said.
The property in question is owned by the Hermitage Club. Its president and founder Jim Barnes attended the Wilmington Selectboard meeting on June 4, where the project was discussed.
The idea to make upgrades with the sure-pack originally was proposed in October 2013. The Trails Committee was then told it could contact an attorney about Act 250 issues. Gannon did so and found out there was land that crossed the trail subject to the state's permitting.
A minor amendment could be obtained fairly quickly, Gannon told the Reformer after the Selectboard voted to hire an attorney and an engineer using money from the Wilmington Fund, a non-profit group that got its start raising funds for recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Irene. Gannon also represented the group at the meeting.
Money for the project will come out of the Wilmington Fund's pocket and the cap for was set at $200,000.
"The reason we're doing this is because parts of the trail are really wet," said Gannon.
One section is between the Gatehouse at the Hermitage Club and Chimney Hill Road. A portion of trail near Haystack Road was named. Then another part is under Green Mountain Power lines where an easement was obtained. That piece of property, Gannon said, contains a lot of ruts that made the trail extremely wet.
"Even a hiker isn't going to enjoy sections of trail let alone a family," he added. "That section really needs work done on it."
In its current condition, Gannon said only "real hikers will go on it" and the proposed upgrade will make the trail more accessible to families. The Valley Trail now connects Dover and Wilmington through hiking and biking trails but sections can be difficult for some of its users.
Before doing any of the work, the committee will wait to find out whether it can start putting down the sure-pack gravel on sections that are not subject to Act 250 permitting, which Gannon believes makes up the majority of the trail that needs the gravel.
On Monday, June 9, Town Manager Scott Murphy said an agreement will need to be signed with an attorney who had already provided some feedback prior to the board meeting. A jurisdictional determination letter will be written to the state on behalf of the town.
"Part of that letter will determine whether we can proceed without Act 250 intervention on areas that do not intersect within Act 250 permitting," said Murphy.
The letter will also see if an amendment is required for the Hermitage Club's existing Act 250 permit before work begins on other parts of the trail that intersect it. Since the Hermitage Club property has the Act 250 permit, it requires more than just permission from the property owner as was needed when developing other sections of the Valley Trail.
The town will also hire an engineer to draw up a design to attach to the letter. At the meeting, Barnes had offered Bob Harrington's services. Harrington has experience with Hermitage Club property as well as others in the region. Murphy said hiring him may be a less expensive option.
If only minor amendments are needed, Gannon said the project could be completed by this summer or fall.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.