NORTH POWNAL — The public will soon have easier access to the Hoosic River with a newly-cleared trail.
The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps is working to clear a trail along the river in town for hikers and walkers, in an effort to provide more recreation opportunities in the area.
It's a two week-job; the first week started Monday, the second one has not been scheduled. An event on Friday, July 12 at 11:30 a.m., which will start at the town wastewater treatment facility off Dean Road, will welcome people to the new trail.
"The first week is to basically cut the brush for a four-foot-wide trail," said Ray Rodrigues, a member of the Recreation Task Force in Pownal. "Right now, there's basically a little tiny foot trail that fisherman make through the grass. And that's not the entire trail."
The second week, the VYCC will build a boardwalk that will provide easy access to the river for canoers and kayakers, he said.
The trail itself starts at the concrete platform overlooking the hydroelectric dam and runs from there to and along the berm at the town's wastewater treatment facility.
The task force became familiar with the VYCC through their representation at early meetings of Empower Pownal, the state's first initiative under the Climate Economy Model Communities Program.
"We became familiar with what they could do at that time," Rodrigues said. The group is extremely organized, he said.
"We decided that it would be really nice to have these young people come in and do this," he said.
The effort will make the land more welcoming, and minimize visitor impact on the land, said Jennifer Seredejko, conservation operations manager for the VYCC, which has its headquarters in Richmond.
"You can see that there's already people from the community that are coming to this area to visit the river," she said. "Just having this one trail will focus the user impact, and make it easier for people to access the river, and easier on the ecology of the river."
The VYCC frequently clears trails; of this year's around 175 weeks of work, maybe about 100 consist of working on trails throughout the state, Seredejko said.
The project is funded through a $24,000 grant to the town from the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation, according to a media release from Rodrigues. The grant also provides funds for the town to install gravel where needed, and there's also money for signs and wood for the boardwalk.
The $24,000 is set to pay for the entirety of the cost of the project, with the exception of town equipment being used, he said.
The Recreation Task Force in Pownal has been guiding the development of the project. The task force was created in 2017 as a result of Pownal's involvement in the Vermont Community Rural Development Project. Task force members identified possible areas for expanding recreation in Pownal and quickly focused on the restored superfund site along the river for their grant proposal, according to Rodrigues.
The former Select Board member Bruce Martel brought this possible trail to the task force's attention, according to Rodrigues. "That's when we started looking at it," he said.
Using this area for recreation was in the original re-use plan for the site, Rodrigues said.
Organizers have found that, while there are trails that can be accessed from Pownal like the Taconic Ridge, there's only one trail in Pownal that can be accessed without having to traverse private property, Rodrigues said.
That's a trail along South Stream Road that goes along the pond.
"That's the only trail," Rodrigues said. "It's not terribly big either."
The new trail won't be especially intense, he said. But the task force hopes it can provide recreation and education opportunities, perhaps for kids to learn more about invasive species.fac
The trail might be around half a mile in length, Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues added that, last year, volunteers opened a trail at Clayton Park, which doesn't require walking along private land.
"It's really short, though," he said.
There are not a lot of recreation opportunities in Pownal, and the task force is working to create more of those opportunities and recruit people to different events, Rodrigues said.
"We welcome more people to join our efforts," he said. "If people have got ideas of any kind of recreation that the town needs anything, we always welcome people's ideas and help."
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.