BENNINGTON — Over 30 volunteers turned out on Sunday for a trail day and mixer at Southern Vermont College.
In an effort to promote the multi-use trail system to the community, the sports management program students and Bennington Area Trail System (BATS) members hosted a kickoff event called "The Trail Mix."
Festivities featured beer tasting by Browns Brewing Co. and pizza by Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza, live music by DJ Showtime, and a bicycle safety checkpoint by Highlander Bicycle. Prize giveaways sponsored by Payless Shoe Source, Bennington Potters, Madison Brewing Co., Bennington Station and Subway were offered.
Brad Deboer, BATS president, Jared Newell and Don Campbell make up the founders of BATS based on their passion for mountain biking and hiking.
"People say that Bennington has no pulse, but I say that this [trail system] is the pulse of Bennington with the way this is going," Campbell said. "Stepping into this breach we said we'll take care of the trails. Give us the land and we'll handle it."
The event ran from 1 to 5 p.m. and involved trail cleanup and a hike/ride at 3 p.m.
BATS is a non-profit organization with nine members on its board of directors. It's also a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Biking Association (VMBA), a network of members from across the state that promote the use, creation and maintenance of trails. BATS was awarded a $1,150 grant from VMBA for trail-building tools and other expenses when the chapter launched in August 2015.
Campbell is a Select Board member, a director of the Vermont Land Trust, and participates in a number of other projects.
SVC Business Professor Jeb Gorham was in need of a task for his students when the link between the event and the sports management program was established, according to Campbell.
The founders acknowledged SVC's leading partnership and how grateful they are for new President David Evans being open to BATS' ideas.
"Our goal is to continue to grow," Deboer said. "Within one to two months the trails at the college will be finished."
BATS' two-step initiative is about mapping trails with help from the regional commission — in which the grant comes into play — and the partnership with SVC, Mount Anthony Preservation Society (MAPS) and Bennington College.
"I'm just proud of the grass-roots effort," Newell said. "I'm an avid mountain biker and have lived here for four years. I saw there was a lack of trails mapped and wanted to see more."
Instead of having a set completion date, Campbell explained that their efforts will never end due to the copious assets in the county and beyond. He said eventually they could work with the Green Mountain Forest. The trail system leads into private properties and into the Mount Anthony Preservation.
"We want to expand the network," Campbell said. "I want it to be a ridable, walkable Bennington."
The college currently has 370 acres of land with an extensive network of trails that stemmed from logging firewood for the Edward Everett's mansion.
According to the trail map, a Hops & Vines trail was completed in the fall with a bridge to be constructed this spring. It trails from Mansion Drive down to Monument Avenue. A baseball field to fieldhouse trail is currently under construction along with the MAPS SVC trail parallel to Fox Hill Road, as well as planned improvements for the Carriage Path behind the field house. A trail to connect from Monument Avenue to the hospital is also planned for 2016.
BATS held trail days in the fall when construction started, but with less publicity, and still had half the volunteers they had on Sunday.
"You can't do this type of thing without the community effort," Campbell said. "The maintenance is all volunteer. Evans agreed about wanting more trails. It's been a pretty positive experience with perfect energy."
For more information, visit the Bennington Area Trail System on Facebook.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.