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Many local trail groups and municipalities are already building shorter trails. We are inspired by the idea to connect community trails together and create a continuous statewide network.
River valleys form natural corridor for a long distance east to west trail at this latitude. The western half of the route is made possible by the unique geology of the Winooski River as it originates to the east of the Green Mountains, then flows through a narrow 3,700 foot deep valley carved between Camels Hump and Bolton Mountain to Lake Champlain. This water gap creates a natural east to west corridor across the state, with a gradual grade even through the mountains. (We're not the first to notice this. Central Vt Railroad, US Rte 2, and I-89 all use this gap. It is still a peaceful, rural area.) To the east, the Wells River picks up over the divide from the Winooski headwaters and flows the opposite direction to the Connecticut River, providing another gradual river valley to follow.
A historic railroad exists that can be converted to a trail in places. The eastern half of the route, from Montpelier to Wells River, is galvanized by the possibility of using significant portions of a historic railroad bed. From 1873-1956, this railroad hauled granite, lumber, mail, milk, school kids and livestock. The railroad generally followed the most gradual possible route, paralleling the upper part of the Winooski River and then following the entire length of the Wells River. Many miles of the old railbed are currently open as public trail. Other parts are not open for public use. And some portions of the old railbed could be open to the public in the future, but are fallen to disrepair and not useable in their current state. What does remain are the towns along the length of the old rails, still connected by a natural corridor that can again host an invaluable means of recreation and alternative transportation.
Studies of other long distance trails over the years have documented trails can have a positive impact on economic activity and increase home values in their communities. (Some of these studies are catalogued online at Rails to Trails Conservancy.)
Because it's fun, and healthy, to get outside and ride, run, glide, stroll along a trail that starts near your house and goes and goes. It may be 20 minutes with the dog after work, it may be riding your bike to school, it may be a state wide journey of exploration.
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Statewide summary: From the west, the trail route begins in Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain, then generally parallels the Winooski River through Waterbury and Montpelier to the town of Marshfield, where it crosses out of the Winooski watershed in Groton State Forest. Meeting with the head waters of the Wells River in the State Forest, the trail continues along the length of the Wells River through the villages of Groton, South Ryegate, and Wells River to the east end at the Connecticut River.
Another way to visualize the general route of the trail is to look at a Vermont Highway map. From west to east, the route of the Cross Vermont Trail generally parallels Rte 2, Rte 232, and Rte 302.
In Burlington, South Burlington, and Williston, the trail route mostly follows the excellent municipal bike path networks created by these communities. They have worked many years to develop this network. An alternative route, including some more primitive sections open only to foot traffic, can be composed from the string of parks maintained along the banks of the Winooski River by the Winooski Valley Park District and Burlington City Parks.
In Richmond, Bolton, Waterbury, Moretown, Berlin, and Middlesex our route is formed by a patch work of recreation paths, quiet dirt roads, and scenic stretches of Rte 2 and Rte 100B.
In Montpelier we join with the Central Vermont Bike Path. This is an ongoing project with several pieces completed and more in the planning stages. Currently the Cross Vermont Trail route connects together existing portions of path with local streets to create a through route.
In East Montpelier the route mostly follows Rte 2 and Rte 14; high speed roads in busy areas. Cross Vermont Trail Association is working now to create an alternative off road path. This is a large job – you can help! Talk with us if interested in learning more.
Finally, starting at the eastern part of East Montpelier and running through Plainfield, Marshfield, Groton, Ryegate, Newbury, and Wells River the trail route alternates between open sections of path created from the historic railbed of the old Montpelier - Wells River Railroad and sections of Rte 2 and Rte 302. (The town of Groton maintains a website with recreation information for path users.) CVTA is working towards the long term goal of moving the entire route off of state highways. In some places this can be achieved by repairing portions of the old railroad. In other places the old railbed is not available and we are talking with interested landowners about alternative corridors where we can build new path from scratch.
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Our mission is to build a four season, non-motorized, multi-use trail.
- family friendly recreation for people of all ages and abilities
- safe travel to school and work for non-motorized commuters
- convenient location for daily exercise and healthy outdoor activity
- a permanent greenway for easy local access to the natural world
Bicycling. Essentially all designated portions of the Cross Vermont Trail are useable by ordinary bikes. (Some short spots may easier to dismount and walk through - sometimes that's the price to get the route connected all the way through.) Any reasonably solid bike with medium sized tires will do. (You do not need a high performance mountain bike, but a skinny tire road bike will find it rough going.) Biking is one of our basic rules of thumb - if it works for bikes, then it works as the Cross Vermont Trail.
Hiking, dog walking, baby strolling. The entire route is open to foot traffic. The trails are wide and gradual, so they are convenient for young and old alike. Dogs (under the immediate control of their owners) are welcome on all the open trail segments.
Equestrian. Currently, equestrians use and enjoy the segments of trail made from the old Montpelier-Wells River Railroad bed in East Montpelier and in Groton.
You name it. Over the length of the statewide route, the trail takes many forms. Opportunities for all kinds of trail users are available at different locations.
(Whether or not there is also motorized use on a trail segment is a decision made by the land owner. If the land owner allows motorized use, and if a motorized user group wants a trail there, then CVTA partners with them to share the work of caring for the trail. We currently work together with four local snowmobile clubs.)
Get out in Winter! All trail segments are open in winter. Maintenance varies from groomed snowmobile trail, to plowed municipal paths, to places where you just tromp through the deep snow.
Get out in Spring! Most recreation trails in Vermont are closed in the spring, because of wet conditions. However, Cross Vermont Trail segments tend to be thoroughly constructed, with good drainage and firm treadway, even where they pass through woods and nature areas. As a result, we are open for those who want to get out on trails during mud season.
Universally Accessible. The Cross Vermont Trail is a great chance to build long stretches of real trail that meet Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines and run for miles, taking users from town centers on out through dramatic terrain and into open natural areas. The "ADAAG" guidelines guidelines are pretty straightforward. Essentially, the trail has to be gradual, several feet wide, with a smooth, stable tread. We're excited to make a true long distance accessible trail!
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The Cross Vermont Trail has qualified for listing as a member of the Vermont Trails System and as a National Recreation Trail. Designations recognize the merit of the work we are doing, and documents that this work meets certain standards.
The Cross Vermont Trail Association is a private, non-profit corporation. Because the state wide route is a patchwork of many different pieces, we work with a wide variety of partners - including private landowners who choose to allow a trail on their land, as well as many local towns, and also State and Federal agencies.
Vermont Trails System
On May 21, 1996, the Cross Vermont Trail was designated by Governor Howard Dean as a part of the Vermont Trails System. The Vermont Trails System was created in 1993;
"In order to provide access to the use and enjoyment of the outdoor areas of Vermont, to conserve and use the natural resources of this state for healthful and recreational purposes, and to provide transportation from one place to another, it is declared to be the policy of this state to provide the means for maintaining and improving a network of trails to be known as the "Vermont trails system." It is the intent of the legislature that trails be established within and without boundaries of state parks and forests and, when feasible, to interconnect . . . " (Vermont Statutes, Title 10, Chapter 20, § 441)
One important aspect of the Vermont Trails System law is an emphasis on liability protection for private landowners who allow designated trails, such as the Cross Vt Trail, on their land.
National Recreation Trail
On June 3, 2003, Gale Norton, United States Secretary of the Interior, designated the Cross Vermont Trail as a National Recreation Trail. The National Trail System Act of 1968 authorized creation of a national trail system comprised of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. While National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails. The goal of which is to promote the use and care of existing trails and stimulate the development of new trails to create a national network of trails and realize the vision of "Trails for All Americans."