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The Bristol Trail Network makes strides

FOOTPRINTS IN THE snow suggest that hikers are using the Bristol Trail Network year round.

Since its inception in 2017, the Bristol Trail Network has brought more than $26,000 into Bristol, through grants, donations and in-kind services.
— Porter Knight

BRISTOL — Winter weather may have hit pause on Bristol Trail Network (BTN) construction, but evidence suggests that the existing trails are getting plenty of use.
“We’re seeing footprints in the snow on all of the sections,” said Porter Knight, who for more than two years has overseen the building and maintenance of the BTN, a project of the Bristol Recreation Club.
The BTN is a developing network of trails around Bristol that promote access to and appreciation for natural, historical, and cultural resources and support the recreation and education of residents and visitors alike.
Seeing the network’s trails get winter use caps off what was already a highly successful 2019 for the BTN.
“(Last year) was an incredibly productive year for us,” Knight told the Independent in an email. “We added several new segments and now have about three miles of trail in the village.”
In 2019, BTN volunteers and supporters built the Business Park Loop segment (behind the Bristol Firehouse) and the River Bend segment (along the New Haven River), and rerouted part of the Old Dump segment.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT
The BTN also received four different grants last year.
• A $3,500 state Building Communities Grant, for trail work in 2020.
• $1,500 from Burlington retailer Outdoor Gear Exchange, also for trail work.
• $1,445 from RiseVT, to make trail signs.
• A $1,000 ShareYourself/Front Porch Forum grant, for trail work.
As the year came to a close, Knight submitted a fifth application, for a $12,960 Recreation Trails Grant, which the BTN hopes to use in 2020 for trail work at Memorial Park, which is off Route 17 five miles north of Bristol village. Later this month Knight and her team will apply to the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative for additional grant funding.
“I’m really pleased at the variety of the grants we received,” Knight said. “The focus of these grants was economic development, recreation and community development — these things are basically what we’re all about.”
The BTN also received more than $2,000 in donations from individual donors in 2019.
“At our last Rec Club meeting our treasurer shared with us that since its inception in 2017, the Bristol Trail Network has brought more than $26,000 into Bristol, through grants, donations and in-kind services,” Knight said.

COLLABORATIONS
In addition to working with its steadily growing group of trail volunteers, the BTN collaborated with a number of local groups last year, including students from Mount Abraham Union High School and from Middlebury College, and kids from the Green Mountain Club.
The network also received significant support from three teams of students at the University of Vermont.
One UVM team created a map of the trail network. Once it has been refined and finalized, the map will be used on the BTN website and for trail signs, probably later this spring, Knight said.
A second UVM team created an interactive website to engage users in the history and nature associated with the trail network. Last month the Independent got a sneak peak of the website-in-progress — it’s going to be really cool when it’s done. The website should go live sometime later this year, Knight said.
The third UVM team, which consists of senior engineering students working on their Capstone Project, is developing plans for three BTN-related projects:
• crosswalks at two key locations, South Street and Airport Drive.
• improved parking at South Street.
• a renovated bridge crossing at Memorial Park, with ADA accessibility to the waterfall viewing area.
Local groups, like the Bristol Historical Society and the Vermont Master Naturalist Program, have also led guided interpreted walks for the community.
“Getting all of the pieces connected to make this happen has been really gratifying,” Knight said.

NORDIC SKIING
Knight and other folks are hoping to make more than just footprints in the snow.
As the snow gets deeper this year, most sections of the BTN could be used for snowshoeing, and Knight predicts that The Old Dump, High School and Business Park Loop sections will make for great cross-country skiing.
The latter is the focus of a developing collaboration between the BTN and Mount Abe high school.
“We’ve been talking with Mount Abe’s facilities director, Devin Wendel, about helping improve the high school trail — not only for making it a better year-round trail, but also for improving it for cross-country skiing,” Knight said.
Mount Abe is always looking for ways to expand opportunities for its kids, Wendel told the Independent.
“We have a couple of students who are doing Nordic skiing independently, through other schools, but as that grows we’d like to find a way to have a program like that on campus,” he said.
“We’re looking big-picture here,” he added. “We want to future-proof the existing trail network, which we already use for cross country (running), but we’re also asking, ‘Could it be used for Nordic?’ A snowmobile with a groomer could keep it nice in the winter.”
For more information about the Bristol Trail Network, email Porter Knight at knight@gmavt.net.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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