Pownal focuses on hiking trails

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POWNAL — A new trail, with a new policy.

At the Select Board meeting Thursday night, board members voted to name a new trail by the wastewater treatment plant the Hoosic Bend Trail, and also approved the trail's signage and passed a hiking trails policy for the town. All votes were unanimous.

The name Hoosic Bend Trail was put forth by the Recreation Task Force in Pownal, which spearheaded the recent trail-clearing effort.

"Because right at where the wastewater treatment plant starts, the river turns in a big bend," said Ray Rodrigues, a member of the task force, of the trail's name. "We were looking for something that would identify it geographically."

The trail is currently open and walkable.

The new hiking trails policy, which covers the Hoosic Bend Trail, states the trails are free of charge, and requires visitors to obey posted signage. It also has a list of prohibited activities, including hunting or discharging firearms or explosives without the permission of the Select Board, camping overnight, smoking or intentionally causing destruction to town property.

Before passing the policy, the board changed its wording to reflect that the board determines signage for the trails.

This is a new policy for the town, and it goes into effect immediately.

"We have hiking trails," said Michael Walker, town administrator, when asked about the impetus for the policy. "We're excited about that."

Besides the Hoosic Bend Trail, the town has a small trail at Clayton Park, one along South Stream Road and one along Wood Road.

"We're still working on that," Walker said of the Wood Road trail. The trail is open, but officials need to determine signage.

"The trail has been there for some time," he said. "I'm told it has not been accessed for many years. It was abandoned because Wood Road literally washed away."

A contractor came in and enabled access to the trail roughly two months ago, in an effort paid for through the town road fund, he said.

"It was important because we're trying to generate recreation activity, economic activity," Walker said. "It's one of the things I consider an easy win. We got something going; we're moving ahead."

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The Hoosic Bend Trail 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 Vermont Youth Conservation Corps cleared the trail last month, an effort that was spearheaded by the task force.

"You can see that there's already people from the community that are coming to this area to visit the river," Jennifer Seredejko, conservation operations manager for the VYCC, previously 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."

On Monday, Aug. 12, the VYCC will return for their second week of work, building a boardwalk to provide easy access to the river for canoers and kayakers, Rodrigues said.

The project is funded through a $24,000 grant to the town from the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation, according to 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 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.

Using this area for recreation was in the original re-use plan for the site, Rodrigues previously said.

The new trail won't be especially intense, he previously said. But the task force hopes it can provide recreation and education opportunities, perhaps for kids to learn more about invasive species.

The trail might be around half a mile in length, Rodrigues has 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.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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