EAST MONTPELIER – The Cross Vermont Trail Association (CVTA) formally opened and dedicated the new Winooski Bridge in East Montpelier and Berlin on Saturday, June 4. The new bridge is a keystone link in a growing regional trail network. On June 4, one-and-one-half miles of new trail on either side of the bridge were also officially opened, extending the Montpelier Bike Path from Gallison Hill Road east along the old Montpelier & Wells River railroad bed for one mile, then across the new bridge and further on an additional half mile of newly constructed trail upstream along the Winooski River to a new trailhead parking lot on Route 2.
The ribbon cutting was attended by over 70 people who gathered on the bridge and cheered as the large red ribbon was cut with lopping shears. Additional people, including many children and people of all ages, walked or biked by during the ceremony, as the new trail is already proving to be an attraction to local trail users.
Keynote speeches were given by Haley Pero from the office of Senator Sanders; Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Michael Snyder; Director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (and trail building volunteer) Gus Seelig; and Mayor of Montpelier Anne Watson. They emphasized that this was a true grass-roots project with a small non-profit organization, the CVTA, coordinating and pulling together a jigsaw puzzle of public funding from federal, state and municipal sources, with CVTA raising matching funds of $350,000 in private money contributed by hundreds of local individuals.
Finally, a brief ceremony dedicated the bridge to Esther Salmi and Tom Smith. Their memorial plaque reads: “Both were involved in the greater Montpelier community, enjoying cycling, running, hiking, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. Their commitment to fitness and respect for the environment live on in those who appreciate the outdoors.” The bridge also memorializes John Warshow, an early and long time project supporter who, as one of the partners who created the Winooski Hydroelectric Company that reopened the power dam here and which owns the old railroad bridge abutments, was one of the first people CVTA talked with about the possibility of a trail on the old railbed.
“It’s amazing to see people out on the trail and crossing the bridge, like it’s always been there” said Greg Western, Cross Vermont Trail Association Executive Director. “The past few weeks, once the physical work was done and the construction contractor was no longer on site, I have seen a regular stream of families with kids, older people on e-bikes, people casting fishing lines from the bridge, all day long.”
Further trail construction is ongoing. When complete, the CVTA project will include five miles of additional trail. The new trail will connect to the U-32 school and the East Montpelier trail to the north, plus there will be new walking trails along the banks of the Winooski River for fishing, boating and just enjoying the water; and a final extension of the main bike path across East Montpelier to Route 14 where the current trail begins on the railbed and continues in various forms east across the state. For project updates and timelines go to crossvermont.org or call (802) 498-0079. Trail users should be aware that sections of the trail still being built will be cordoned off from public access during active construction; any closed areas will be clearly marked.