New group aims to create trails in Bennington area

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BENNINGTON — A new group aims to create recreational trails and to promote and maintain existing ones.

Bennington Area Trail System (BATS) founding member and president Brad DeBoer said the group has held two work days this fall to make a new trail at the base of Mount Anthony for non-motorized use. It branches off of an existing one in forested land on the south side of Southern Vermont College's campus.

"We're about halfway completed with the trail," DeBoer said during a visit to the trail head on Wednesday. "I think we're looking at another one or two trail days, with 10 people and two or three hours of work each day, to get it completed. We're hoping to have our next trail day this Sunday."

The end result will be a one-mile, winding, single-track dirt trail, up to three feet wide, where people can mountain bike, hike, run, snowshoe and cross country ski. DeBoer said the trail will offer spectacular views before ending at the baseball field on Monument Avenue.

DeBoer has been biking for 18 years, ever since he and his wife moved to town in 1997.

"There's never been a formal, mapped mountain bike trail — or hiking system — with a dedicated group of people to maintain them," he said.

BATS grew out of a meeting held this spring between Bennington County Regional Commission and other entities, he said. Also involved was Peter Hall of Highlander Bicycle, resident Jared Newell and Selectboard member Don Campbell.

"There was this shared passion that we have all these trails, and wouldn't it be great if the public knew where they were," said Campbell, who also serves as a BATS board member and as the Vermont Land Trust's southwest regional director.

Today, BATS is incorporated as a non-profit organization with eight members on its board of directors. It's also a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Biking Association (VMBA), a statewide network of member-funded groups that promotes the use, creation and maintenance of trails. VMBA awarded BATS a $1,150 grant for trail-building tools and other supplies.

DeBoer said BATS has a signed access agreement with the college and another landowner for the new trail. The group hopes to work with private landowners, the Green Mountain National Forest and the Mount Anthony Preservation Society (MAPS) — an entity that owns numerous parcels on the slopes of Mount Anthony — about building more trails.

BATS' efforts have gotten universal approval on the SVC campus, including from President David Evans.

"We couldn't have asked for a better first and primary partner," DeBoer said.

The college has an extensive network of trails on its 370 acre campus, some old logging roads built to gather firewood for Edward Everett's mansion.

DeBoer and Susan Briggs, senior advisor of communications for the college, said faculty and staff are interested in having students and sports team help with the trail system.

BATS' initiative is privately funded and runs parallel with town-led efforts related to trails, paths and pedestrian and bicyclist safety. That includes the tentatively named "Ninja Path," which aims to create a two-mile paved trail from Hicks Avenue to Bennington College.

Campbell, who was elected to the Selectboard this spring, said he wants to make Bennington the kind of place where young adults want to live. "I think the town is in a really strong position to take advantage of its outdoor assets," he said.

For more information, visit the Bennington Area Trail System on Facebook or email batsvt@gmail.com.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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