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Leahy paved way for Frost Trail renovation

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY and his wife, Marcelle, joined Green Mountain National Forest officials, invited guests and friends of the Moosalamoo Association to dedicate the reopening of the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton with remarks at the Bread Loaf Barn and then by hiking its length on a blustery Tuesday morning. The trail has undergone a three-year, $650,000 overhaul, which made the entire 1.2 miles of the trail universally accessible. Independent photo/Steve James

Frost Trail is just one of a large number of superb and widely diverse recreational opportunities available within the area, at an accessible ‘Vermont scale’ that can be enjoyed by all.
— Sen. Patrick Leahy

RIPTON — While walking along the newly refurbished Robert Frost Interpretative Trail in Ripton this Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., paused at a plaque with the Frost poem “A Road Not Taken” and remarked it was one of his favorites.
“I could have chosen a comfortable career as an attorney in Vermont,” he said of his younger days working in Burlington, but instead, at 34 years old, he ran for the U.S. Senate seat in 1974 and won. And that, he said, “has made all the difference.”
Leahy, 81, visited the Robert Frost trail as part of a celebration Tuesday to dedicate the trail’s $650,000-plus reconstruction during the past three years. Leahy is now Senate Pro Temp, and chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as a leading senator on the Senate Agriculture Committee where he has served for most of his 46 years in office and has had an outsized role in outdoor recreation and boosting lands within the national forest.
The dedication, held in the barn on Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus just a mile up Route 125 from the Frost Trail, was hosted by the Green Mountain National Forest and the Moosalamoo Association, a local citizens group that manages the 16,000-acre Moosalamoo National Recreation Area (MNRA).
Work over the past three years, supported by funds Leahy secured through his leadership in the Senate, has greatly improved the Frost Trail to achieve full accessibility for those with mobility challenges while maintaining this especially scenic forest landscape.
“Before this project started three years ago,” recalled Angelo Lynn, president of the Moosalamoo board, “the boardwalk over the wetlands was so dilapidated it wasn’t safe to have a wheelchair on it, which rendered the accessibility of the trail moot. Through Sen. Leahy’s help, legislation was drafted a few years ago to finance some critical projects. Part of that funding to the MNRA was used for the Robert Frost Trail’s renovation, which entailed ripping out the old boardwalk, anchoring the new boardwalk with pilings that went down as far as 21 feet into the wetland to reach secure footings and rebuilding the decking with a composite board that is designed to last a lifetime.”
The work not only extended the quarter-mile boardwalk by 100 yards, but this past summer the longer, second part of the 1.2-mile trail — over the bridge and out to a meadow overlooking Bread Loaf Mountain — was graded and capped with packed stone to make it universally accessible. Work this year will build a connecting trail from the Frost Wayside Picnic Area, about 100 yards away, to the main trailhead, more than doubling the parking capacity of the popular walk.
The trail honors the renowned poet who lived and wrote in a farmhouse adjacent to the area during the final two decades of his life. About a dozen poems are posted on plaques along the trail.
Monica White, interim commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, was at the dedication to herald the completion of a trail that brings new opportunities to a special segment of the population. “An estimated one in five Vermonters is living with at least one type of disability, and one in 10 of us has two or more disabilities,” she said.
Furthermore, she noted, “Vermont’s population is aging: It is estimated that over a quarter of our population (28 percent) will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030. Accessible exercise options are a key to healthy aging for us all to keep moving and be active as we grow older.
“It is truly wonderful that Vermonters of all ages, with or without mobility impairments, can benefit from the newly refurbished Robert Frost Interpretive Trail to enjoy nature, to learn about history, and to share quality time together as neighbors and as friends,” White added. “Our communities are so much stronger when we make them accessible to and inclusive of all Vermonters.”

LEAHY’S KEY ROLE
Leahy in recent years has brought over $1.5 million in funding to the MNRA for work on the Frost Trail and other projects, such as renovation of the Oak Ridge Trail to make it more accessible to intermediate mountain biking, replacement of numerous bridges, a mile-long mountain-bike loop trail at the Moosalamoo Campground along with a small pump track for kids, as well as the replacement of numerous directional signs along its more than 70 miles of trails.
The Moosalamoo Association, formed in 1989, has been promoting the area for decades as well as helping to maintain many of its trails, which include the well-known hikes to the Falls of Lana, Silver Lake, Rattlesnake Cliffs and the Leicester Hollow trail.
The MNRA sits within the 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest. Besides hiking, the area has a broad mix of uses including mountain biking, fishing, hunting, birding, camping, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing in winter, blueberry picking in late summer, and much more.
“The Moosalamoo Association acts as a parent partner to many other groups it works with,” Lynn said in explaining the role of the citizens board. “We partner with the Vermont Mountain Bike Association through the Addison County Bike Club to build a lot of our mountain biking trails; we work with VAST to build snowmobile trails, the Audubon Society to promote birding, as well as with several other groups. Our goal is use this 16,000 acres dedicated to recreation in a way that best serves the broader community, while also being mindful to not overdevelop the area. Keeping parts of the MNRA undisturbed with few visitors is also an important perspective to keep in mind and a balance to seek.
“That’s why having the Frost Trail within the Moosalamoo is a perfect complement to the surrounding 16,000 acres. Having a mile-long scenic and contemplative trail that is universally accessible just adds another dimension to the MNRA that makes it even more unique, and a very special place to visit time and time again.”
Sen. Leahy added that the “Frost Trail is just one of a large number of superb and widely diverse recreational opportunities available within the area, at an accessible ‘Vermont scale’ that can be enjoyed by all. That’s what convinced me 15 years ago that Moosalamoo deserved national recognition as a congressionally designated National Recreation Area, and it’s why I have worked to bring extra resources to the MNRA.”
The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area was established with legislation authored by Sens. Leahy and Jeffords and by then-Congressman Bernie Sanders in 2006 as part of the Vermont Wilderness Act, which also established the Glastenbury and Joseph Battell Wilderness areas in the Green Mountain National Forest and expanded several other wilderness areas.
Green Mountain National Forest Supervisor John Sinclair on Tuesday cited the years of combined effort to conceive, design and complete such a large project of what is a heavily used trail.
“We appreciate all of the engagement that we have received from the Senator and our partners on this high-profile project,” Sinclair said. “This has truly been a collaborative effort.”

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