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Volunteers complete first segment of Trail Around Bristol

BRISTOL — Bristol residents working to create a trail system around Bristol reported that they’ve completed their first project: extending and improving the cross country trail behind Mount Abraham Union High School.
“We continue to be so impressed by the enthusiasm in the area,” said Porter Knight, the Bristol Recreation Club board member who is spearheading the trails initiative. “We had people from elementary age to their mid-70s helping on the trail. And I had feedback from several people saying it was a ton of fun.
“It also looks terrific.”
Knight said that close to 20 volunteers put in over 120 hours of work the week of August 7 to widen and extend the Mount Abe cross country trail. The newly extended trail runs about 0.8 miles behind the high school. Starting from behind the football field, the trail arcs around the back of the school and now emerges at the northeastern edge of the school property, just beyond the baseball field.
“Students running there this fall will be pleased to find there’s actually some new terrain,” Knight said.
Work widening the trail was planned and orchestrated by Mount Abe cross country coach and middle school teacher Brent Crum. That section was made wider than the group envisions other legs of the intended Bristol trail network because the high school not only practices on the trail, but uses it in cross country competitions. In addition, some teachers use the trail as an outdoor classroom so room is needed for students to gather, Knight explained.
On Monday night, Knight approached the selectboard seeking approval to further extend the cross country trail along the edge of the now-capped Bristol landfill.
“Not through the landfill because it’s been capped and we won’t want to do anything on the dump for three years,” explained Knight. “But along the stone wall that has historically gone around the dump. It’s sort of fallen down now, but just to the left of the stone wall. It’s still on town property and the woods are pretty dense there. You can’t see the dump, although it’s pretty nicely mowed,” Knight observed.
The selectboard green lighted the proposed extension, and the group expects to complete that leg this fall.
Next stop for the Bristol trails initiative is the site of the former Bristol Manufacturing Company along the New Haven River, where hundreds of mill hands once built coffins, wooden drying racks, doors and window components sold across New England. In the same way that the cross country trail is a collaboration between the trail group and the high school, the trail through the coffin factory site brings together the Bristol Recreation Club, Bristol Conservation Commission and Bristol Historical Society. The conservation commission and historical society are fundraising to provide interpretive signs along the coffin factory trail. Much of the historical information for this section of the trail has been gathered by historical society member Reg Dearborn. The rec club, with Knight at the helm, is focusing on building the trail itself.
Anyone interested in contributing should gather this Saturday at the site of the former coffin factory at 9 a.m. Dearborn will give a tour of the site and talk about the buildings that once stood and the work once done there.
Trail work will begin at 9:30 a.m. and run through noon. Volunteers are encouraged to bring tools for clearing the trail area (rakes, clippers, shovels, hoes, saws and axes). A second work day is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at gaenm@addisonindependent.com.

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