On the trails: The Faces Behind our Trails

As the days grow shorter and our primary trail work season comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on a fascinating range of Upper Valley Trails Alliance projects and the people who help make them happen.

We call ourselves the Upper Valley Trails Alliance because we want and need powerful partnerships with towns, organizations, landowners and volunteers to build, maintain and support local trails. We strive to support all 43 towns in the Upper Valley, but currently we have just four professional staff doing it all — from writing grants to shoveling dirt.

Thankfully, we are able to combine our ample energy and ambition with wonderful members and partners.

The faces most vividly etched in my mind are those of the high school students who served in our Upper Valley High School Trail Corps program. Almost 50 students devoted an entire week to the build and maintain seven different trails in the Upper Valley, from an important trail reroute in Windsor to vital trail repairs and maintenance in Lyme to new trails in Lebanon and Hanover.

As I picture those Trail Corps faces, I see images of mud, sweat and smiles. We are so grateful to the roughly 50 young crew members who worked diligently through one of the wettest summers ever, moving large muddy rocks with rock bars and building new wooden steps on a drenched hillside.

The good news is that the rain also provided invaluable real-world lessons about trails. Erosion caused by water is the biggest threat to trail sustainability, and our crew members were able to see the vulnerabilities. The excess water revealed the overflowing drain in need of clearing and improvement, a section of the trail requiring better benching and the necessity for an additional water bar drainage on a steeper slope.

I am also struck every year by the fact that our staff and Trail Corps would not have any trails to work on if it were not for all of the landowners and partners. These are the people and organizations who open their properties and find the funding to build and maintain these public trails.

Before I started working for UVTA, I had no idea that over 70% of our public trails are on private, or potentially restricted, lands. Every year, we learn that each and every public trail has essential advocates and a story behind them.

These people and partners include Chet Clem and the Friends of River Park promoting the River Park trails in West Lebanon; Tom Jack and the Trescott Recreation Committee supporting the trails on the Trescott Water Supply Lands in Hanover; and Blake Allison and the Lyme Conservation Commission behind the Trout Pond Trail, among many others. Each of them gave up time to speak to our High School Trail Corps members, and they and others connected with these organizations and trails have found the funds and contributed countless volunteer hours.

We are so grateful for all of the people who make our alliance and invaluable local trails possible. Please do everything you can to honor their work by supporting the organizations that build and maintain your trails. Find your local trail managers on Trail Finder at www.trailfinder.info.

Randy Richardson is development director at the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. He can be reached at randy.richardson@uvtrails.org or 802-649-9075.