North Branch Trails Initiative
A Successful Vision for Expanding Montpelier’s Access to Outdoor Recreation.
For years, towns across Vermont have capitalized on visitors to their towns to ride bikes, hike, ski, and recreate on their trails, on their lakes and rivers, and in their forests. An economic impact report released by the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council found that Blueberry Lake bike trails in Warren bring in $1.8 million annually to the Mad River Valley. The totals come from looking at direct consumer spending associated with using trails (trail tickets, rentals, etc.), and the activities recreationists love doing before and after hitting the trails, such as visiting nearby watering holes, shopping, or grabbing a bite to eat.
Seeing this as a blueprint for success, MAMBA partnered with the City of Montpelier and the Montpelier Parks Commission, working to sustainably expand North Branch Park’s network of shared-use trails. In the Fall of 2016, a working group of trail advocates, led by then Mayor John Hollar, began laying the groundwork for new trail building within the city’s limits with a specific focus on providing more trail recreation options that are easily accessible from downtown.
In Winter of 2017, a trail plan was designed by professional trail builder Brooke Scatchard of Sinuosity Flowing Trails and commissioned by the Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association (MAMBA), proposing improvement of existing trails and the addition of 3.5 miles of new, shared-use trail in North Branch Park, just below Sparrow Farm. The plan was approved unanimously by the Montpelier Parks Commission.
Over the next 3 years, MAMBA raised over $114,000 to drive the project. The project was funded by grants and donations from 9 foundations, 16 Vermont businesses, and over 75 private individuals. Phase 1 of the project was completed Fall 2018, Phase 2 was completed Summer/Fall 2019, and Phase 3 was completed Summer/Fall 2020.
We cannot overstate how many hands and people and volunteers it took to make this project happen. Our community now has a rich network of shared-use trails where we can mountain bike, fat bike, ski, hike, and run within walking and cycling distance of where we live.