Vergennes bike, hiking trails are ready to use


SCOTT HARDY SPEARHEADED the effort to bring bike trails to MacIntosh Park in Vergennes. Independent file photo/Steve James

VERGENNES — Trails are ready for use by mountain bikers and hikers on the wooded, city- owned, 12-acre MacIntosh Park that runs along Comfort Hill’s east side in northern Vergennes.

“Most of the trails have been roughed in, and the outer loop is pretty well finished,” said Scott Hardy, an area resident who has been a key organizer of the effort to develop the wooded park into a recreation destination. “My hope is throughout this fall we’ll have all the trails cut in, and we’ll just improve them as we go along.”

Hardy, who owns property near the park, said as well as the half- mile outer trail, volunteers have also just about completed work on a second trail that runs north-south inside that loop.

He did caution those who bike, rather than walk, might find the going a little rough, at least at first, on sloping trails about three feet wide.

“What happens is over time with people riding it will smooth the trail out. A new trail is always a little bumpy. And then we’ll continue to work on it over time,” Hardy said.

The project received its blessing from the Vergennes Development Review Board this summer, when also backers of the effort worked out an insurance issue with city officials.

A $5,000 grant from the Vermont Mountain Bike Association is supporting the project. The Vergennes City Council supported the project late in 2019 by backing that grant, which Hardy successfully applied for along with the Addison County Bike Club (ACBC), of which he is a board member.

The grant has not been tapped for much so far. Hardy said it will be used to pay for signs that are on the way, with design work being done to coordinate their appearance with other city signs.

And he added that in the future, assuming city permission, the funding could pay for parking at the access to the trail, which is at the point where Comfort Hill takes a sharp bend to the right, not far past the road’s intersection with High Street.

The actual development of the trails has largely been the product of volunteer labor, Hardy said.

“We had a really good turnout from members of ACBC, a lot of people from the Middlebury area, and then we had some Vergennes residents who wanted to see this happen,” he said.

For now, without onsite parking those who would like to drive to the park should leave their vehicles downtown, Hardy said.

“We’re hoping people will use the existing parking in Vergennes, either up around Main Street or down off Macdonough Drive by the Otter Creek,” he said.

But the park is not far from anywhere in Vergennes, maybe a third of a mile from Main Street, close enough so that some residents are already using it on lunch breaks for exercise.

One who has taken advantage of the trails is resident Neil Kamman, who wrote about the park in an email and also noted the trails benefit youngsters who want to learn to ride mountain bikes, and visitors to the area.

“I am super psyched and appreciative that Scott and the Addison County Bike Club took on this project. Sure, it’s not the most expansive mountain bike network out there, but it is very nice to have some woods-based recreational trails right in town,” Kamman said. “If I leave my house, I can enjoy a solid 45-minute piece of exercise that involves all the hills in town, and a few nice single-track trails.”

Hardy has been pleased with the early response, including interest from a noontime Collins Aerospace walking and running group.

“From what I’m hearing people are enjoying it. And Collins was inquiring about it for their employees. So I think it’s definitely a community draw and a community attraction. I’ve heard about people coming up from Middlebury with their kids to ride it as well,” he said. “The idea is it’s a good, approachable starting point for younger kids and families.”

Hardy hopes work on two shorter trails inside the larger loop can be completed this fall before the snow flies.

And he hopes city residents — and people from surrounding towns — can make use of the park even after the snow starts falling.

“We encourage people to use it year-round, skiing or hiking, whatever it is,” Hardy said.” We think it will be nice to get four-season use.”

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

 

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