by Elizabeth Dow, Community Journalist
HARDWICK – The newly-formed Lamoille Valley Rail Trail Committee (LVRT Committee) held its first official meeting on Tuesday, March 21.
Tracy Martin, Hardwick’s community development coordinator, whose job keeps her closely in touch with the state officials in charge of developing the trail, will serve as coordinator for the committee. Irene Nagle of East Hardwick, who works for the Northern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) which supports LVRT development in multiple ways, will serve as secretary. Other members include Helen Beattie and Brendan Buckley, of East Hardwick, who serve on the Town Trails Committee and are enthusiastic bikers; David Upson, Hardwick’s town manager; Shari Cornish, chair of the newly-created Downtown Partnership and president of the Northeast Kingdom Arts Council (NEKArts), which manages the Hardwick Town House; Elizabeth Dow, president of the Hardwick Historical Society, which manages the Depot; Mallory Greaves, who chairs the Hardwick Recreation Committee, and Kristina Michelsen, an enthusiastic user of all kinds of trails.
A regional group, the Northeast Kingdom LVRT Council (NEK Council), has begun a series of initiatives to support NEK towns as they develop plans for responding to the impact of the LVRT and its projected 60,000 visitors per year. Earlier in the day, several committee members had attended a NEK-Council meeting which discussed the NVDA study of projected use and the interactive map under development for internal use by towns in the NEK. The committee nominated Upson to represent Hardwick on the NEK Council, although anyone interested may attend its meetings.
The committee addressed issues that had come out of the regional meeting, starting with signage. The state has begun to put up trail crossing signs. The committee will ask the state to install some directional signs pointing to Hardwick’s trail heads: one by the old railroad siding area at Stevens Lane in East Hardwick, one at Creamery Lane and the Depot on the east end of Hardwick village, and one near the Yellow Barn on Route 15 on the west end of Hardwick village. The Hardwick Trails Committee has made arrangement for the Wood Technology Program at Hazen Union to create two new kiosks, one for the intersection of the LVRT and the Town Trails behind Hazen Union and one for the Town Trail head at the Hazen Union parking lot.
The Committee then took up the issue of parking. The Creamery Road/Depot trail head does not have enough space to accommodate snowmobile trailers. The committee discussed trail heads with parking for snowmobilers, including those which might provide overnight parking, but it has no answers. The trail head in East Hardwick will require better parking in the right-of-way along Stevens Lane and improved drainage in that general area.
Trail maintenance became the next topic. While the Vermont Transportation Agency (VTrans) will perform needed maintenance on the trail itself, local committees may need to organize volunteers to do things like pick up trash along the LVRT. Town staff will empty trash cans at the trailheads and clean the bathroom at the Town House which will be made available for trail users.
The trailheads will need equipment. The committee wants to put a picnic table at the Depot and another at the trail head in East Hardwick. All three trailheads in Hardwick will need garbage and recycling containers. Martin is looking for grant funds to pay for park-grade equipment. The Central Vermont Solid Waste District may have some grant funds available for the trash equipment.
The committee talked about trail-users’ need to refill water bottles and provide water for their dogs and horses. The Depot has an outside faucet the committee can connect a short hose to for filling bottles and drinking bowls. The East Hardwick Fire District may run a tap to the trailhead at Stevens Lane. More sophisticated equipment is expensive, and the committee will address this issue after it has provided picnic tables and trash receptacles.
Since VTrans controls the right-of-way along the track, it must approve all arrangements. The committee will pursue lease agreements for the proposed amenities at the trailheads, as well as for redesigning and improving the parking area between the Town House and the Depot, and clearing and stabilizing the old railroad siding area at Stevens Lane in East Hardwick.
The Hardwick Select Board created the committee as an independent sub-committee of the town Recreation Committee. The committee plans to meet regularly at 5 p.m., on the third Tuesday of the month. Most of the members in attendance had met several times over the past year as an informal group to anticipate the needs and impacts of the many people who will pass through the village as they explore the newly finished LVRT.