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Cautions for Park Trail Use!

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Father and daughter dance up the stepping-sticks on the Pond to Tower Trail in Hubbard Park. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.

While some of the trails in Montpelier’s parks have started to dry out, many are still wet and muddy. To avoid causing damage to the trails when using them, care and consideration are essential.

Higher elevation trails in the mountains remain closed altogether, according to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation and the Green Mountain Club. Moreover, Governor Scott’s guidelines discourage traveling more than 10 miles from your home for recreation.

Montpelier Parks Director Alec Elsworth noted that many trails in North Branch Park are closed. “In addition to being wet and muddy, many of the newer trails are very fragile, especially where new berms were recently built on downhill sections of the bike trails,” he explained. Bike riding of any variety is currently not allowed.

Hubbard Park’s roadways are in walkable condition and remain closed to vehicles. The section of road from Hubbard Park Drive to the tower is the firmest and driest. The tower itself is closed because the staircase and the landing at the top are too narrow to accommodate physical distancing (see the Outdoors Guidelines, below).

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If you do plan to walk trails in Hubbard Park, as many people are, keep in mind the following:

Meeting the Muddy Way

Wear mud-capable boots. Walk in the center of the trail and expect your boots to become muddy. 

Avoid the temptation to step around the muddy area because doing so will compress the soil, hinder plant growth, and, as others follow your footsteps, widen the trail, leaving it more susceptible to erosion. 

Better yet, turn around and find a route along one of the park roads. Or, simply postpone your trail walking until the trails have had a chance to dry out.

Stepping-sticks laid across a muddy section of a trail provide a way ahead without walking around the mud, which causes damaging widening of the trail. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.

Learn the Stepping-stick Dance!

This is a mud-aversion strategy that anyone can help implement because the woods are littered with dry deadfall branches, 2–3 inches in diameter. Break a branch into 24–30-inch lengths and lay the pieces across any area of shallow mud at 12–18-inch intervals. Press the pieces sufficiently into the mud that the branches won’t roll out from under footsteps. Then dance across. Walkers coming later will learn the dance quickly, sparing the trail further damage.
For information on safe or modified outdoor recreation activities during the COVID-19 crisis, visit Outdoor Recreation and COVID-19