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Bristol Trail Network eyes new state funds

BRISTOL — The Bristol Trail Network (BTN) wants to launch a new program called “Outside Bristol.”
“We’re trying to get people into Bristol and outside in Bristol,” BTN coordinator Porter Knight told the Independent.
Outside Bristol would provide, among other things, a central website for outdoor recreation in town, an interactive online map of local recreation resources and comprehensive wayfinding signs for BTN trails.
Last year, in collaboration with the Bristol Conservation Commission and the downtown-improvement organization Bristol CORE, BTN applied for a Vermont Outdoor Recreation Communities (VOREC) grant to launch Outside Bristol, but there wasn’t enough money go to around.
Hopefully that’s about to change — in a really dramatic way.
Gov. Phil Scott has proposed funding VOREC — which has awarded a total of $300,000 in grants over the past two years — with $5 million in 2021. That’s a 2,500% increase over last year.
“Three years ago, we launched (VOREC) to invest in outdoor recreation,” said Scott at his annual budget address last month. “While it has helped projects like Newport’s waterfront trail and Randolph’s outdoor hub, there are many more that could use this support. These projects improve communities, grow economic activity in the areas that need it most and strengthen our Vermont brand.”
The Bristol Trail Network fits the bill perfectly. Its mission is to create and maintain trails around Bristol; promote local natural, historical and cultural resources; support recreation and education; foster connections among people and between people and the landscape; and enhance Bristol’s potential as a recreation and tourist destination.
Gov. Scott’s massive increase in VOREC funding, which is for one time only, was made possible by an unexpected state surplus of $210 million this past year, thanks to federal economic relief for COVID-19.
Shoring up VOREC in 2021 is part of a larger outdoor recreation funding proposal that totals more than $20 million.
Another $5 million will go toward repairing and improving recreational trails around the state. Though the funds would be administered through the Agency of Natural Resources for state lands, there will be a portion available for trail organizations — like BTN — that support trail infrastructure and maintenance on private and municipal land.
“(We’re) glad to see continued support for outdoor recreation,” Knight said. “The trails have been a real blessing for the community during COVID.”
The Bristol Trail Network in particular has seen much more use over the past 12 months than it saw in the previous year, she said.
VOREC will begin accepting grant applications soon, according to its website, and when it does, BTN will be ready, Knight said.
In the meantime, BTN is planning for spring and summer trail work, including:
•  engineering work to replace the bridge in Memorial Park, thanks to a $6,000 grant from a private foundation. Once the engineering work is complete, Knight will start looking for a construction grant to build the bridge, she said.
•  trail construction, if funded, at Memorial Park, which is a one-mile loop along the Baldwin Creek. The BTN has applied for a federal Recreation Trail Program grant and will hear back in March. “I’m eager to get that park reopened,” Knight said.
•  constructing a small trail section between the existing Old Dump Trail and Burpee Road.
•  reinforcing the River Bend Trail, with the help of an AmeriCorps volunteer, and possibly a college intern.
•  constructing stonework on the River Bend Trail, which will be done by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp.
•  and, of course, basic trail cleanup and maintenance.
“We are also in the midst of our Art on the Trail 2021 project, which is a year-long photography celebration of the ever evolving beauty found on the trail,” Knight said. “The January submissions were gorgeous. Another goal for the season is to continue to promote the trail widely so that more local folks know about this great resource in town. It has received a lot of use (all sections) all winter so far, and I’m really gratified to see that.”
For more information about the Bristol Trail Network, visit tinyurl.com/8tmhdm0d.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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