Bristol Trail Network is slowly taking shape


WALKERS ENJOY A little “forest bathing” as they trek along the Bristol Trail Network on July 1. Efforts to connect trails around town into a six-mile loop are proceeding in the network’s second year. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

THIS MAP SHOWS the segment of the Bristol Trail Network hiked by a group on July 1.

MEMBERS OF THE Vermont Youth Conservation Corps last week build these stone steps on the River Bend segment of the Bristol Trail Network. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

BRISTOL — Porter Knight, who for more than two years has overseen construction of the Bristol Trail Network, asks fun questions.

Take, for instance, a group email she sent out on June 19:

“Anyone have a machete and know how to use it?”

Volunteer trail builders had encountered something quite a bit tougher than grass.

“We need someone who wants to hatchet it down with some type of thing (a machete was suggested) and then weed-whack it,” she continued.

The following day, in an email postscript, Knight announced with amusement that the machete email had generated more interest than any other trail-related email she’d ever sent. Fortunately it had also attracted a number of volunteers proposing to accomplish the work “with an assortment of tools that sound MUCH safer than a machete.”

Most of Knight’s email requests, however, are pretty routine: trash removal, root and branch clipping, light raking, rock collecting.

In this way, slowly but surely, a trail network is taking shape.

NEW SEGMENTS

On July 1 Knight led a group walk over two relatively flat miles of trails, which began on Pine Street, near the Bristol Town Garage.

The first half-mile they explored was built last year, then slightly rerouted. It curves north around the former town dump, then cuts south behind Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School’s baseball diamond.

At the moment this new section is informally known as the “Dump Trail,” but this is very likely to change.

Swatting at the occasional mosquito, walkers continued for another well-traveled mile on the High School Trail, which runs between Mount Abe and the gravel pit to the west.

They stopped occasionally to take in the glorious views or to appreciate the wildflowers.

Pink lady slippers in full bloom, everyone agreed, look very much like bubblegum bubbles.

They emerged from that trail near Stoney Hill Road, then walked past the Mount Abe welcome sign and crossed West Street to the firehouse. Behind the parking lot there, where local entrepreneur Kevin Harper hopes someday to build the Stoney Hill Business Park, walkers again entered the woods and explored a brand-new half-mile loop.

This “Firehouse Trail,” which had been completed just 10 days before, circled back to the same parking lot where it began.

THIS SUMMER

If all goes well this summer, the “Riverbend Segment” along the New Haven River will connect the new Firehouse Trail to the existing Coffin Factory Loop, which begins just off South Street.

For much of that construction, which began last summer and at times has gotten quite technical, the Bristol Trail Network has enlisted the help of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC).

Last week, along steep terrain that rises sharply from the New Haven River, six VYCC members and two crew leaders constructed stone staircases and built new trail lengths with “bench cuts.”

Bench cutting involves digging a flat trail tread out of a slope. Viewed in cross-section the shape of such cuts can resemble a park bench.

Knight and her volunteers spent a combined 28 hours preparing the corridor for VYCC’s arrival. They also contributed to a “VYCC Creemee Fund” so that trail workers would have a nice treat at the end of every day.

On Thursday, the Independent tested out a section of the new trail. When it’s completed it will require slightly more strenuous hiking than the sections it connects, but it will offer wonderful opportunities for “forest bathing,” especially when soundtracked by the burbling river.

Another new (short) section, the “Basin Street Segment,” will extend east from the Coffin Trail Loop.

By summer’s end, Knight hopes to create an online map of all the existing trails, as well as nearby parking lots, she said.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Bristol Trail Network, which is a project of the Bristol Recreation Club, celebrates its second birthday this summer.

Knight is setting her sights on a different birthday, however.

In 2021 the Rec Club will celebrate its 100th birthday, and Knight hopes to have completed the Bristol Trail Network by then.

Much work remains to be done, of course — some of which involves talking to and securing permission from landowners — but Knight hopes eventually the trail network will comprise a six-mile loop, with several entry and exit points.

In the meantime, there are plenty of miles to enjoy.

For more information about the Bristol Trail Network, contact Porter Knight at [email protected].

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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