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Fall Guide: Frost trail is now accessible to everyone

U.S. SENATOR PATRICK Leahy joined Green Mountain National Forest officials, invited guests and friends of the Moosalamoo Association for a walk along the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton this past spring. The outdoor ramble coincided with the dedication of the trail at the conclusion of a three-year, $650,000 overhaul, which made the entire 1.2 miles of the trail universally accessible. Independent file photo/Steve James

RIPTON — The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton provides a beautiful spot for a fall walk that doesn’t involve climbing mountains.

In fact, the trail is an easy walk, and the first 0.3 miles crosses a scenic beaver pond on a boardwalk that stretches out to the South Branch of the Middlebury River. In total it is 1.2 miles long. Thanks to the work of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy it is accessible and suitable for wheelchairs.

The U.S. Forest Service maintains all of the old fields along this trail with prescribed fire to preserve the scenic, open appearance of the area.

This National Recreation Trail commemorates Robert Frost’s poetry; several of his poems are mounted along the trail in the woods and fields. Blueberries and huckleberries grow in an old field at the far end of the trail and are free for the picking early in the fall.

Leahy came to Ripton this past spring to dedicate the completely refurbished trails. As he walked along the path, Sen. Leahy 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.”

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.

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 this past spring’s 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 have 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%) 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.”

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