Letter to the editor: In support of trail development

In support of trail development

I would like to write in support of rail trail and multi-use trail development in southern Vermont. I am happy to hear the multi-use path in Bennington will be receiving funding. It has been a long time coming. Thank you to those who worked to get it moving. I work on trails for my career, and though I do not get to work on the ones in Bennington much, I am most fond of the National Scenic Trail that goes through our back yard, the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT and the Long Trail are the same from the Massachusetts border to the Route 100 and 4 intersection, and is hiking only. Most of the ridge south of Route 9 that you see has this trail running along it. How lucky are we?

In response to the article about Manchester neighbor concerns about a rail trail in their community, I refer you to the Economic Impact Study of the Erie Canalway Trail. It is mind-blowing. I recently attended the 2015 Massachusetts Sustainable Trails Conference hosted yearly by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. I attended workshops on the economic and health benefits of trails and connective paths within communities. These are either trails that were specifically designed to promote health and help low income commuters get to work and school safely (Springfield, MA has a project in the works). Others have put in multi-use paths or rail trails that were aimed to offer recreational and health benefits to surrounding communities, as well as attract tourists to the region. Rail trails have been proven to provide economic benefits, and boost property values, not devalue them.

I have lived in 5 communities that have such a trail in their community and used them regularly to commute or get to a trail system. I was drawn to live in the community because I felt they valued recreation as an everyday necessity. I do not see why Manchester would say no to this. It is a win-win.

Successful and growing multi-use rail trails in and around Southern Vermont include: Ashwillticook Rail Trail (Lanesborough, Mass. to Adams, Mass.), D and H Rail Trail (Granville-West Pawlet), the new and expanding Corkscrew Rail Trail (Stephentown, N.Y.), and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (Hillsdale-Copake Falls, N.Y.). Let's not forget The Erie CanalwayTrail, which goes from Buffalo to Albany, making it the longest multi-use path (360 miles) in the State of New York. Vermont has our famous Island Line in Burlington, The Cross Vermont Trail, and the Stowe Recreation Path, which both draw tourists from far and wide, and keeps locals active.

If you have any questions on rail trails and how they work for communities, I'm sure that realtor, Sugar Maple Inn owner (Inn developed because of the rail trail), and Rail Trail advocate for the Mass Central Rail Trail, Craig Della Penna, would be eager to discuss. Craig@MassCentralRailTrail.org

Additionally, as an accessibility advocate, I encourage towns to explore the option of crushed stone/rock dust as a better alternative than pavement. Pavement is more prone to frost heaves and creates hazards and easily makes a path non-ADA compliant. Rock dust is a great multi-use surface because it drains well, is easy to maintain if done correctly, and allows handicapped users to have a less bumpy surface in the long run. Many multi-use trails use it successfully.

Happy Trails.

— Silvia Cassano, trail management assistant, Appalachian Trail Conservancy Southern New England Office Bennington


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