Middlebury considering townwide multi-use path
MIDDLEBURY — The selectboard here on Tuesday unanimously agreed to back a homegrown effort to create a new trail connecting downtown Middlebury with East Middlebury, a four-foot-wide path that would give safe passage and healthy recreational opportunities for bikers, runners, walkers and hikers.
In an effort to get the path underway, the selectboard endorsed a grant application for up to $100,000 through the 2018-19 Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative (VOREC) Pilot Community Grant Program. This money, according to Addison County Bike Club member Ashar Nelson, would be used to plan and help pay for construction of the proposed “multi-purpose trail.” Organizers envision a 4-foot-wide gravel path that would connect the Trail Around Middlebury with the East Middlebury sidewalk system.
Representatives of the county bike club — which counts around 150 members — and the Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT) are spearheading the project.
“When the idea (of a Middlebury East Middlebury) trail was thrown out there, it immediately had a lot of enthusiasm,” Addison County Bike Club member Eric Berg told the board. “It’s something a lot of people have been thinking about… ”
The trail, Berg added, would be “relatively flat” and geared to cyclists with “moderate to easy” riding expertise.
“The idea is to encourage family cycling opportunities, beginner cycling and also as a safe route to encourage commuting between the two communities,” Berg said.
He noted the new amenity would be much safer for walkers and bikers now using busy Route 7 south to get between Middlebury and East Middlebury.
The path would also lead advanced mountain bikers to more challenging trails within the nearby Moosalamoo National Recreation Area.
“From our perspective, it’s very logical,” Nelson said of the path proposal.
Organizers said the precise route of the path will take shape during a planning process that will include outreach to property owners. Nelson said MALT and bike club officials are studying several route options.
“We have to go out and talk to landowners before we figure out what their concerns are, or if there are concerns, and work with them before we can say, ‘This is a good route,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
The VOREC grant would require the town of Middlebury to be the “community sponsor” of the grant.
Nelson acknowledged there will be a lot of competition for the limited VOREC grants. But he added organizers are so committed to the path they will proceed with planning even if the town’s grant application is rejected.
“I’m certain we’ll do local fund raising,” he said.
Selectboard members embraced the idea.
“I’m certain the community will benefit from it,” Selectman Victor Nuovo said.
Boosters offered letters of support from the leaders of eight area organizations, including Addison Central School District Superintendent Peter Burrows and Addison County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Fred Kenney.
“Expanding our recreational assets by connecting existing resources is an efficient use of infrastructure capital,” Kenney wrote. “The village center of East Middlebury is only about 2 miles from the north entrance to the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, which further opens over 16,000 acres and over 70 miles of maintained trails and other recreation resources to Middlebury residents and guests.”
Burrows said such a path would help local school children.
“A path connecting East Middlebury would provide the ability for many of our students to participate in ‘Walking and Rolling’ to school, and would also benefit our families and community members who are active parts of our schools in Middlebury,” wrote Burrows, himself an avid cyclist. “Further, I believe that this path would reflect well on Middlebury as a whole and its commitment to reducing the carbon footprint and building on our reputation as an outdoor-focused and health-conscious community.”
Representatives of Porter Hospital, the Moosalamoo Association, Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Middlebury College’s Rikert Nordic Center and Snow Bowl were also supporters of the grant application.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].