Thursday, February 25, 2021

New Possibilities for the Rail Trail

 Joe's Ponders will be interested that there are conversations going on about the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) that follows the east shore of Joe's Pond, becoming part of Vermont's Forest, Parks and Recreation Department (F{R) in cooperation with VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers). VAST presently assumes maintenance of the trail - admittedly with a lot of volunteer help along the way. Joe's Ponders and others along the finished sections of the trail are great about clearing fallen trees and keeping the trail  clean and well kept; this is acknowledged and appreciated by everyone who uses the trail as well as VAST.

According to an article by Dana Gray in a rec4ent issue of the Caledonian Record, FPR commissioner Michael Snyder has presented a proposal to the Vermont House and Senate transportation committees about his agency assuming some role in the LVRT's maintenance of the trail. Many of us were elated when Gov. Phil Scott designated $2.8 milling in his 2020 budget, which the Legislature authorized. This money is expected to be enough to complete the 34 miles of unfinished trail that will connect all sections from St. Johnsbury to Swanton, but it is estimated that it will cost some $350,000 a year to maintain the finished trail. VAST has done a good job of keeping the trail in shape over the years, but it is a huge undertaking for one organization to  assume. A logical solution would seem to be for FPR to assume at least part of the responsibility.  FPR is funded in large part by user fees, but that would not be considered as an option on the rail-trail. The on-going costs will be worked out as part of the on-going discussion. Hopefully, the State of Vermont will see the wisdom of incorporating the trail into it's FPR responsibilities as the trail benefits the state in general, as well as the towns it runs through.

The rail-trail section that follows the shore of Joe's Pond has been an exceptional recreational resource for Joe's Pond residents over the years, and especially during this past very stressful year of Covid-19. People have been able to safely walk, bike, ski or snowmobile on the trail and in so doing, are able to keep in touch with their friends and neighbors to a greater extent than would have likely been possible without the trail. This section of the trail is well maintained, thanks to the personal attention it gets from home owners who live close to it. It is a source of pride and many people donate their time, and money, to keep it well cared for and beautiful.

In the meantime, we are enjoying one more snowy day - I measured another inch of new snow earlier and it has been snowing steadily all morning. The wind has died down from being very gusty this morning and now there are just big, lazy snowflakes falling gently to make our landscape very pretty - postcard worthy, I suppose. But we really don't need more snow. There is a lot on the ground right now, and while each day we get a fresh dusting to several inches, days like yesterday when the temperature was in the high 30s and low 40s help to settle the snow and give us hope there's an end to winter. Each day brings us a little more daylight and although we know that spring is coming, we also know that we have yet to get through March - and that can be a bear!

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