Bike route connects Vt. communities (7/16/09)

Cross Vermont Trail cuts through Williston

July 16, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A bike route that bisects Vermont and Williston is becoming more visible to the public, thanks to new signage along major roadways.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
A recently installed Cross Vermont Trail sign sits near the entrance to the Williston Recreation Path on North Williston Road. The Cross Vermont Trail is a bike route that crosses the state east-to-west and bisects Williston.

The green and white signs, which can be seen in Williston on Route 2, North Williston Road and Marshall Avenue, show a bicycle above the words “Cross VT Trail.”

The signs highlight the multi-use Cross Vermont Trail that spans the state from east to west — a trail that’s been in the works for more than 15 years and is fast becoming better known.

For Williston resident Ben Rose, who’s also the Cross Vermont Trail Association board’s vice chairman, the route is an important way to link communities from Lake Champlain across the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River.

“If nothing else, (the trail) has to work to connect these communities,” Rose said.

And, according to Eric Scharnberg, the trail association’s executive director, the signs will now alert people to the fact that the Cross Vermont Trail exists.

“Having the trail signs are good for motorists to know there will be cyclists using these roads,” Scharnberg said.

From one body of water to another

Nearly 90 miles long, the trail has endpoints on Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. On its eastern side, the trail begins in Wells River and follows old railroad bed sections, new trails and existing roadways to Perkin’s Pier on Burlington’s waterfront. Along the way, the trail passes through cities and towns including Groton, Montpelier, Waterbury and South Burlington.

The trail bisects Williston, utilizing much of the town’s multi-use and recreation trail system.

Rose said the Cross Vermont Trail has been a mammoth undertaking since its conception in the early 1990s. The creator of the project was Rose Paul, a former Agency of Natural Resources employee and current trail association board chairwoman. Paul wanted to see a route that didn’t follow the typical north-south trail routes within Vermont.

As the idea grew and route planning began, it became a way of involving communities in a statewide effort to connect people, according to Scharnberg. With limited resources, the association has rallied communities, most notably East Montpelier and Richmond, to create new sections of trail to divert users away from busy roadways.

The trail varies between paved surfaces and packed gravel trails on public and private lands. Scharnberg said the route is best for cyclists on hybrid or mountain bikes and can be completed in two to three days. Scharnberg added that the Association is in the process of creating maps for users.

Funding for the trail has come mainly through grants from private foundations and available state and federal funds, according to Scharnberg.

“Our scope shrinks and expands depending on funding,” Scharnberg said.

Williston’s route

In Williston, the Cross Vermont Trail explores the town’s diversity, from quiet woodlands to busy Taft Corners.

It enters Williston from the east along Route 2 from Richmond. It then follows Governor Chittenden Road, climbing past the Catamount Family Center before hooking up with Williston’s recreation path system on North Williston Road.

The trail runs concurrent with the Williston Recreation Path past Williston Central School and through the Southridge neighborhood. It continues to utilize the bike paths past Allen Brook School and into Taft Corners, where it runs along Marshall Avenue to Williston’s border with Muddy Brook.

The Cross Vermont Trail then crosses into South Burlington on Kimball Avenue, where it eventually hooks up with South Burlington recreation trails.

“That’s the interim route, but there’s a lot of places we can improve and make safer,” Rose said.

For instance, trail planners hope to divert the route on a path around Southridge. According to Williston recreation path plans, a paved trail would circumvent Southridge and eventually connect again with the recreation path near Allen Brook. Public Works Director Neil Boyden said that section of recreation trail might not be built for quite some time, depending on future housing projects.

“It would take some development of that land to make anything happen,” Boyden said.

Another section of Williston’s Cross Vermont Trail that could change is along Marshall Avenue. Currently, cyclists have to bike in the narrow shoulder on the busy road. According to Boyden, a study has been completed to determine the cost of completing a bike path along Marshall Avenue and Kimball Avenue.

The estimated cost of the joint project with Williston and South Burlington, which includes a bridge over the Muddy Brook, is approximately $3.2 million, he said. Boyden said the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization completed the study in 2006.

Boyden said much more work would have to be done for that section of trail, including more concept designs and permits for both Williston and South Burlington. Grants and federal money could help pay for the joint town venture in the near future, he added.

“It’s a great link to get done, and it would be an important one,” Boyden said.