New trail preserves pledge

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BROOKLINE — Terry Radford looks at his donation of land to preserve habitat and expand recreation on Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association trails as a way to make good on a pledge he made with his oldest nephew Paul Smith a long time ago.

"I would say that in the 1940s, if Paul and I had been taken and transported to the Vermont woods, we would have thought we died and gone to heaven," Radford said Sunday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the trailhead. "And talking about heaven, I know he's up there and he's laughing and he's saying to himself, 'You son of a gun, you kept the pledge.'"

Growing up during economically bleak times in England, the two men had cost-free activities to keep them entertained, and one of them was called "nesting." They would go into the woods, search for bird nests and collect the eggs.

"It was completely accepted in the '30s and '40s," said Radford, who now lives in Atlanta, Ga. "But Paul and I never felt good about it."

One day in 1948, Radford told Smith they were "going to do something for the birds," and the pledge was made. But Smith was a smoker who died of emphysema in 2003 at the age of 62 so he never got to see Radford's plan take shape.

Smith's niece rented Naulakha, also known as the Kipling House, in Dummerston in 2005. Her family came from England to visit the Landmark Trust USA property and invited the Radfords.

"We had never been to Vermont," Radford said. "We discovered Brattleboro and had never seen somewhere where everyone does their own thing; it doesn't matter who you are, how you dress or anything. There's a big dramatic clan and artists. It was really fantastic."

Radford and his wife Edna Radford began visiting the area for the next several years. They rented the Sugar House, another Landmark property on Kipling Road, and started snowshoeing.

Radford recalled reading about an ad for a cabin on Grassy Brook that had a lot of land that joined the lands where Pinnacle Association hiking trails are located. The couple ended up purchasing the cabin from Rick Cowan, who later sold them additional property that adjoined what they already owned. They decided to donate about 55 acres and ask for a trail to be built within two years.

The Redford-Smith Trail now adds 1.2 miles to a network of more than 25 miles of trails maintained by WHPA from Putney Mountain to Grafton, according to a press release. The trailhead is directly opposite 1195 Grassy Brook Road in Brookline.

Sarah Waldo, vice chairwoman of WHPA, thanked the Radfords for the land that it made it possible to connect to the western side of the association's ridgeline Cascade Trail.

"So it really opens up hiking opportunities for people on this side of the ridge," she said during the ceremony. "It's a wonderful thing."

The Radfords also funded the construction of a footbridge over Grassy Brook and a parking lot on Grassy Brook Road. Carpenter Phil Pellerin built the bridge. Sam Bourne, who owns a landscaping and excavation company in Brookline, made the parking spaces.

Roger Haydock, the trail's designer, said drainage and safety are his top concerns when building a trail. Then he looks at minimizing steepness and roughness. This time around, he had to compromise on the latter.

"This was a rough trail," he said, adding that engineering it was "a lot of hard work."

Haydock called the trail "a really beautiful, inspiring route."

Cowan, who is no longer the association president, was said to have shepherded the project from beginning to end.

"I think it's fabulous," he said in an interview. "I'm so excited to see this land."

The bridge, he said, is "simple but elegant."

Cowan said the land is sensitive ecologically and required state permitting known as Act 250 approval. Waldo recalled needing specialists in river management and wetlands to check out the plans.

"We needed to give them maps of everything," she said.

The final step, she said, is to get a conservation easement.

Jon Griffith, of Brattleboro, regularly hikes but he had never been to the Pinnacle trail network.

"So this is the first time," he said.

Griffith was one of more than 10 people who hiked the trail after the ceremony while another 10 or more people continued to gather at the parking lot.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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