By Stephanie Choate
As the weather grows increasingly pleasant and leaves begin to unfurl, Williston hikers will soon have a new trail to explore.
Several groups are completing the final portions of a long-planned trail beginning at Vermont 2A and extending to Mud Pond Conservation Area, informally known as the cross-town trail.
This week, a crew from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps is building a 57-foot bridge over the Sucker Brook on the Hill Trail, a new section of trail beginning at Vermont 2A and linking to an existing trail at Five Tree Hill. In the next two weeks, a crew from Home Depot will lay down the bridge’s decking.
Meanwhile, the Williston Public Works Department expects to complete a new trailhead and 12-car gravel parking lot on Vermont 2A, slightly north of Butternut Road, by the end of the month.
On the other end of the cross-town trail, students from University of Vermont Professor David Raphael’s sustainable landscape architecture and construction course are working to reroute a section of trail near Mud Pond from the VAST trail, which is impassably muddy during most of the year. Raphael hopes that by mid-May his class will have completed the trail—complete with boardwalks over boggy areas and a new observation platform over Mud Pond—sparing visitors who want a view from soaking their feet.
Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti, who is spearheading the project, expects the trail to be ready for use in June.
The completed cross-town trail will begin at Vermont 2A at the former Hill Farm property, pass over the Sucker Brook and wind past historic features on the Boomhower family’s land, lead up Five Tree Hill for a vista of Lake Champlain, then down to an observation platform overlooking Mud Pond. In its 3.5-mile course, the trail passes through forest, past active farm fields and near historic features.
In 2014, Andreoletti hopes the town can complete a second phase of the trail building, which will mean a mile-long addition all the way around Mud Pond, across South Road and into Mud Pond Country Park.
The Vermont 2A end of the trail represents an $80,000 investment—$53,000 in grants and $27,140 in matching funds from the town’s capital budget. On the Mud Pond end of the trail, the town chipped in $4,000 for materials—a combination of capital budget funds and Conservation Commission money—while Raphael and students donated their labor.
“The real value of the course is it’s mutually beneficial,” Raphael said. “The town gets a project that if it were to hire professional trail crew would cost a lot more money and students get a real world experience.”
On April 27, the UVM class spent the entire day lugging planks, pounding posts for boardwalks into the ground and laying the framework for bridges. The class is set to return Saturday.
“The trails there are currently underwater for a good portion of the year,” Raphael said. “We want to provide an alternative so people could get out there at this time of year and in the fall without having to worry about getting up to their knees in water.”
Raphael said the class took pains to make sure every aspect of the project is sustainable. The lumber is native and rot resistant, not chemically treated. Students won’t use concrete or “intrusions” into the landscape, he added. Raphael said they also avoided clearing any native plants, only removing invasive species such as buckthorn to lay the trails.
“We’re trying to be very light on the land,” he said.
“Hopefully at end of the project, the trail will be a year-round, aside from being under three feet of snow in the winter,” he said. “We’ll be creating a passable dry pathway to experience the woods and then to explore the pond and the bog.”