BENNINGTON -- The 25-year old Bennington Cycle Club made a $1,000 donation to the town on Friday to help initiate the extension of the Walloomsac Pathway, known as the "Ninja Bike Trail," to connect various commercial, retail and recreational segments of Bennington.
"We don’t have the railbed to use like a lot of communities do to create a totally off-the-road path," said Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Joann Erenhouse, describing how the "Ninja Bike Trail" got its name. "So, we have to take what we do have and use it. The idea is that we just want to get out and do it, even if we have to sneak out in the middle of the night: Like a ninja."
Brian Lent of William E. Dailey Inc. and Peckham Industries gave an initial private donation for the bike path upon its inception. In addition to the cycle club’s donation, the chamber is reaching out to local businesses for materials or for funds for materials to be donated.
Erenhouse said the trail so far has the backing of the community and the town select board because bike trails have been shown to increase property values of adjacent homes and businesses. "We are really excited to get this vote of confidence and to get some community buy-in: This is going to benefit everyone," she said.
Most of the building costs will be absorbed by community volunteers, short of material cost, permits and building any bridges.
Erenhouse said the trail will eventually join isolated areas, so businesses have been supportive of the project, even if it is projected to go over their property. "It’s for recreation; Ultimate means of transportation; A way for people to not have to use a car; And a way to connect various segments of our population," she said.
The project timeline has set out the goal of completing "phase one" of the path done by mid fall, which will extend from the river path through downtown along the Walloomsac River and River Street to Benmont Avenue, following Benmont to the Hunt Street Bridge where a path will be built behind the Walmart Plaza.
"Once phase one is done, we can take various groups out for a reconnaissance walk or a ride: Once they have experienced it, people are going to love it," she said.
GBH Studios of Grafton County, New Hampshire, is working with the BACC and the town to supply signage for the path and help promote its visibility. Erenhouse said once more people use it and know it’s there, more community involvement and donations might flow in for project completion.
The next part of the bike trail project is expected to be picked up by the end of 2015, to connect the Walmart and Hannaford plazas.
The project partners are currently writing a grant to fund the building of a bridge over the Furnace Brook near the pedestrian bridge along the Bennington Self Storage property and look at the best way to build the path underneath Vt. Route 279 to connect it with the Hannaford Plaza.
A more extended vision down the road would eventually lead the path around North Bennington Road to Bennington College.
Members of the BACC are meeting with Bennington College president Mariko Silver on Monday to start working out the best placement for a potential path. A feasibility study will take place by next year to find the best way to cross the trail over North Bennington Road to the college.
Cycle club president Joe Hurley said the donation was a logical fit with the goals of the use for club funds, which are obtained by membership fees and the club’s annual "Wicked Creepy Cycle Ride" in October.
"I do mostly road and tour riding, but I go on paths in other communities," Hurley said. "I think this is very good for the community here; I think it is very good to have a place for people to ride that don’t necessarily want to ride on the road all the time."
For more information or to inquire about membership with the Bennington Cycle Club, visit it online at www.benningtoncycleclub.com/. To look into the progress of the "Ninja Bike Trail" project this fall, visit the chamber online at http://www.bennington.com/.