Salisbury quietly opens a new walking trail

JIM ANDREWS OF the Salisbury Conservation Commission is one of the leading volunteers behind the creation of the new Pitch Pine recreation trail off Plains Road in Salisbury. Independent photo/Steve James

JIM ANDREWS, RIGHT, and Preston Turner, members of the Salisbury Conservation Commission, put down a few logs to help with a small stream crossing on the Pitch Pine Trail in Salisbury. Independent photo/Steve James

JIM ANDREWS, KRIS Andrews, Preston Turner and Linda Andrews walk on the Pitch Pine Trail in Salisbury last weekend. The trail is a moderate 1.7 miles total. Independent photo/Steve James

VISITORS MAY NOTICE black bear markings on some of the trees as they walk through the Pitch Pine Trail woods. Independent photo/Steve James

SALISBURY — What’s your go-to walking path? Most of us have at least one, whether it be around your neighborhood — checking out new home renovations and gardens — or a walk in your favorite woods. Addison County is chock full of beautiful trails that we can choose from, and the Salisbury Conservation Commission recently added one more to the list. 

The Pitch Pine Trail off Plains Road in Salisbury made its debut quietly in the middle of last year, but the project had been in the works long before that thanks to the steady efforts of the Salisbury Conservation Commission’s volunteer members. 

“Our Town Forest consists of more than 130 acres of land east and west of Upper Plains Road,” read a post from Salisbury Conservation Commission member Jim Andrews in the Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake Association blog on July 18, 2020. “About 20% of our forest became our landfill, town shed, and our sand and gravel pit, but the majority of our town forest is still undeveloped.”

Andrews explained that Salisbury residents were surveyed back in 2012 to determine what their priorities were for the Town Forest and the top three goals were wildlife habitat, recreation/hiking trails, and education. The next year, the town had an “ecological survey of the Town Forest completed and a management plan written,” Andrews noted. “The management plan identified portions of the town forest where a hiking/nature trail would be most appropriate… The western side of the Town Forest has been disturbed historically (part of it was a road, there are gravel pits, and old schoolhouse and a trailer to be found…). It’s an unusual portion of the land — it’s long and skinny — and a perfect spot for a recreation trail.”

In 2017, the town voted to pay for a boundary survey of the western portion to clarify boundaries and ownership status, Andrews added. And with that final piece in place, the volunteers got to work creating this first section of hiking trail.

“It was around the fall of 2019 when we got going with friends and families to do the bulk of the original trail clearing,” Andrews said in a phone call last week. “When we became aware of COVID, it was primarily Preston Turner and I (and family members) working on the trail. It was an activity we could do during the pandemic, so we continued to work on the trail — just a couple of us at a time — removing stumps, cutting out brush and little trees and improving the views.”

Andrews said they used the help of his sister Linda Andrews of Bristol, to give them a standard for the trail work. “If she could find her way and get up and down the hills, we figured, OK we’re set,” he said. 

For example Linda mentioned one particularly steep part during an early review of the trail, so fellow Salisbury Conservation Commission member John Metcalfe figured out how to put in some log steps. Linda is also responsible for three lovely benches on the trail. Thank you, Linda!

The trail was ready for the public by late spring 2020, and in full swing by the summer.

A sign-in sheet offered an opportunity for recreationalists to give feedback. 

“That’s how we knew we needed a few more markers here and there,” Andrews said. “We were really impressed by the number of people using that trail in a very short time.”

The trail begins on Plains Road 0.23 miles east of the junction with Route 7. There is a small parking lot there on the south side of Plains Road outlined with a split-rail fence. Thanks also goes to a friendly neighbor, Janet Higbee, who arranged to have the parking area plowed at the same time as her driveway. You’ll see a kiosk (built by Paul Vaczy, Kip Andres and Preston Turner) with a map (by Chris Fastie) and small, round, blue arrow signs that guide visitors.

“All of a sudden there were all these cars out at the end of my upper driveway,” said Higbee. “I got a little nervous, wondering who they were.” 

After calling a friend, Higbee learned what was going on and decided to offer to plow the parking lot of the trailhead. Bob Hillman does the plowing.

“I’m so thrilled that the trail is there,” Higbee added. “I look out my front door now and can see the little kiosk. They did a great job.”

“We’ve had really nice cooperation,” Andrews said, noting the extra help clearing the trail from his wife Kris Andrews, Barb Karle (a Salisbury Conservation Commission member), and Chris Turner, along with occasional other volunteers from both in and out of town.

The first half-mile of the trail follows an old road. This section is on a very narrow strip of town land with private land on either side. The trail heads south for about 0.2 miles and then turns roughly 90 degrees and heads east toward the mountains. At about 0.5 miles in, the trail splits and you can take a loop in either direction. About midpoint in the loop there is a short dead-end spur trail marked with red arrows that takes you down to Halnon Brook. After visiting the brook you can return to the loop, finish the loop section, and head back out. The entire trail is roughly 1.7 miles with an elevation change of only 192 feet.

“Those people who are less gifted with navigational skills and are past retirement age should still feel very comfortable using this trail,” Andrews said confidently. “In recent winters around here, the amount of snow has been really irregular. I think it’ll be the exception that you’ll need snowshoes or skis to hike this valley trail. But it never hurts to have good grip on a packed snowy trail.”

The Pitch Pine Trail doesn’t have any big features like the nearby Silver Lake or Falls of Lana trails; instead, this is a quieter place with a nice brook and view spots.

“The main idea for us was outdoor and wildlife education,” said Andrews, explaining that motorized vehicles and pets are not invited to use this path. “We wanted to minimize disturbance to wildlife and we’ve had a pretty favorable reception to that.”

The Pitch Pine grove is a unique feature. “They are unusual in Vermont anyway,” said Andrews, “particularly a sand plain population at such a low elevation.” 

These trees are, of course, the namesake of the trail.

So far the trail has cost all of $900 — and a whole lotta energy from the volunteers. Funds have come from a mini-grant from the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions as well as the money the Salisbury Conservation Commission gets through the town’s annual budget and extra donations.

“This project is an awareness raiser and a community builder,” said Andrews, who has dreams to extend the trail east up a ridge surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest. “That is a long-term project and would take a lot more work to design it.”

For now, come enjoy a quiet new walk in the woods, thanks to the hard work of Salisbury Conservation Commission members, and their friends and families.

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