Work is proceeding as funding becomes available to extend the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT).
To date, a third of the 93-mile trail has been renovated for all-season, multiple use. These sections of the trail were completed using an 80 percent federal match secured for the LVRT by Bernie Sanders in 2006. Completed sections extend from Morristown to Cambridge, and St. Johnsbury to West Danville. Continuing progress, however, has been slow.
Raising the total funding to build a project of this size and scope is never easy, The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST), which has been appointed by the state to build and manage the LVRT, has already contributed $3,000,000 of its own in cash, staff time, and administrative resources to the LVRT.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation allocated $75,000 to the project in 2019, and an additional $50,000 from the state is anticipated in 2020. In 2018, VAST won a $200,000 grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) to extend the trail. Even with this support, advocates of the LVRT still have to raise $3,000,000 as the local 20 percent share to draw down an 80 percent federal match administered by VTrans to complete the remainder of the trail.
Ken Brown, LVRT manager at VAST, said some progress is being made on the next broad section of the trail from Swanton to Sheldon known as Section 1C. This fall, the LVRT will be opening a 1.5-mile section in Sheldon that includes Bridge 93, a 400-foot span across the Missisquoi River. This section, which will connect to the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail in Sheldon and extends to Bridge Street, runs along the scenic Black Creek.
Brown explained that the challenges of building the longer trail essentially boil down to two things: time and money. He explained, “Getting the funding to do the project is hard in itself, but then even after we get funding for a section, the time it takes to get the project planned and permitted can take from several months to over a year.”
Brown also noted that two towns, Hardwick and Cambridge, have stepped up to participate directly in the building of short sections of the trail between their town centers. Construction in Hardwick has been a more immediate focus because the town is doing its own fundraising. This fall, the project will be re-decking two bridges in Hardwick and East Hardwick using the NBRC grant. Next summer, a mile of trail will be built in the center of Hardwick, along with a trailhead at the town’s historic railroad depot at Creamery Road. The Cambridge town project is in its earliest stages.
“There’s no real barrier to building this trail except money,” Brown said.
By state law, ATV’s are not allowed on the LVRT because these motorized vehicles, capable of very fast speeds, are said to be incompatible with the intended uses of the trail by groups such as hikers, horseback riders, bicyclists, school classes on out-door education field trips, and children and adults using the trail as a safe commuter route to and from work and school. ATV users have been eager to use the LVRT as a connector to towns and other trail networks.
Brown said it would be up to the State to allow ATV use on small sections in the future to connect to town centers, but stressed that ATVs are currently not allowed on the trail.