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Cross Vermont Trail Association Celebrates Bridge Opening

Cutting the ribbon on the new bridge. Photo by John Lazenby.
Ceara Rush found herself involved with some heavy lifting at the outset of her first day on the job with the Cross Vermont Trail Association.  Preparation for Saturday’s formal opening of the 216-foot bridge across the Winooski River included getting a massive granite marker in place along the switchbacks at the northeast end of the new bridge. 

Rush, serving with AmeriCorps, assisted association Executive Director Greg Western with getting the memorial marker upright and securely in place just in time for the event. The marker commemorates several local people who have been key to the construction of this important segment of the trail. Among them the late Esther Salmi and Tom Smith, avid cyclists; the late John Warshow, who with his business partner Mathew Rubin, provided access across their property at the power plant near the bridge; and John Wires, whose passion for walking is legendary in central Vermont.

The dedication, which took place on National Trails Day, is a celebration of the most expensive section of the trail. The building of the Winooski River Bridge has been supported by federal and state grants and significant contributions by both individuals and corporations. A $1.5 million earmark by Sen. Bernie Sanders has been critical to the construction of the bridge. 

Mike Thomas, a Wells River resident and volunteer for the trail association since its inception in 1992, gave the opening remarks. “I have to remind everyone that the trail begins in Newbury, not Burlington,” he asserted with a good-natured twinkle. Thomas’s point has substance: the first major segments of what is becoming the Cross Vermont Trail involved engineering an underpass beneath Interstate 91 in Newbury, completed in 2003.

“It’s about connecting the communities along the trail and creating a place people — kids and grandmas — can safely get off the highways to walk and bike. Village to village, connecting communities has been the concept from the beginning,” Thomas said.

Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson has been an ardent supporter of the trail’s development throughout her decade-long tenure on the city council. She noted that the Siboinebi Path through the city has seen steady growth in use, particularly since the extension to Gallison Hill three years ago. “Many people discovered this wonderful resource for walking and biking during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for people to get out of their cars.”

Pedestrians cross the new bridge following the ribbon cutting. Photo by John Lazenby.
Among the 70 people attending the event were several state officials who have been supportive of the project, including Michael Snyder, commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation; and Gus Seelig, executive director of the Housing Conservation Board. Both complemented the significance of the trail as a resource that supports their programs by providing options for non-polluting travel by commuters and recreation for everyone.

Most of the members of the board of directors were on hand for the event: Rose Paul, who has retired from the Nature Conservancy; Rick Hopkin, East Montpelier Trails; Nancy Everhart, retired from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; and Craig Whipple, Plainfield, who was formerly the director of State Parks.

Trail Volunteers Needed 

The local project for the Central Vermont Trail this summer will be the completion of the trail in the woods that will parallel the Power Plant Road access to the new bridge. Also under construction are two trails that will provide trail access to U-32 middle and high school and its existing trail system. Western will be seeking volunteers for trail work days through the summer. 

For information contact Greg Western: 802-498-0079 ext. 2; greg@crossvermont.org