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- Pine Hill Park: A network of evolving trails built by a community
Pine Hill Park in Rutland is quietly becoming the center of a
growing mountain biking scene in central Vermont. It complements
the many area offerings nicely, with lift-accessed terrain at
Killington, the steep challenges of the Green Mountain Trails and
the Mendon Forest fire roads. Pine Hill Park offers visitors an
ever expanding and evolving, well-maintained network of
In addition, the park offers fun events throughout the summer and
fall (don't miss the Lunar Quarry, September 15, a 12-hour mountain
bike relay race at night with live music.)
But the park is also a model for what can be accomplished by a
grassroots community effort. Pine Hill Park Founder Michael Smith
tells how the park came to be, how it is protected for future
generations, the importance of volunteerism and about exciting new
projects underway this summer.
HOW IT CAME TO BE
Over a decade ago, Smith used the woods on the north side of
Rutland to train for mountain bike racing. He put a lot of work
into developing miles of trails for himself and his friends using
ancient carriage roads and logging trails; quickly becoming
attached to the area.
When Smith got wind of a plan to sell off the land and create a
housing development, he knew he had to act.
Smith explains: "There were proposed housing developments that had
24 and 42 houses planned. All my work would have been gone. I got
really upset about it and became more civic-minded. I called
everyone I knew and we all showed up en masse at an alderman's
meeting to get the plan squashed. I realized if it wasn't this
housing development that destroyed it, it was going to be something
else. The area needed protection; needed to become an official
Smith succeeded in rallying enough support and his rec area
received official park status.
A lot of hard work followed: building bridges, switchbacks and
berms, also applying for permits, raising money and organizing
volunteers. When the park opened to the public, Smith's experience
with mountain biking in the area was evident. The trail system is
creatively laid out and makes the most out of the natural contours
of the land. Switchbacks are spaced out effectively to make
climbing to the top relatively easy. Once at the top you can enjoy
a spectacular overlook that sits above Rocky Pond and offers views
of Blue Ridge Mountain and Sherburne Pass. There are strategic
spots that offer views over Rutland or shady areas for lunch.
Among the beautiful bridges at Pine Hill Parks are a 100-foot
suspension bridge on Overlook Trail, an arch near Rocky Pond,
twisty-banked bridges and unique stepped bridges; all built by
volunteers using donated materials.
SUCCESS WITH VOLUNTEERS
Tens of thousands of volunteer man-hours went into creating the
park as it is seen today. "As I've done for about eight years, I
try to involve the Rutland High School to get a lot of the work
done," Smith says. "For example, this year we are renovating the
old rock quarry that exists inside the park. The project will
involve about 250 students. Everything I've done is based on a
model of sustainability. We try and make trails that will last and
provide enjoyment for years to come."
Youthworks is a Christian group that sends students from all over
the country to participate in such community work projects; they
will be in town starting the last week of June through the end of
summer on Mondays and Tuesdays. All trail enthusiasts are
encouraged to show up for the Youthworks trail days. Smith says,
"These kids get outside to do something for the community that they
might not ordinarily do. I and the other adults who volunteer see
it as a free gym membership for the summer."
The "carriage trail" is an exciting new development that Pine Hill
Park's army of volunteers is working on. When completed, this
six-mile trail will allow riders to access the Pine Hill Park
network of trails from behind Proctor High School. The trail will
follow an old carriage route that stretches along the ridgeline
near Rocky Pond. Smith is happy to finally get this project started
after years of planning and seeking permission from
"Sometimes, it is a delicate negotiation to bring both private and
public entities on board for a greater community good," Smith said.
The much-anticipated opening of The Carriage Trail is scheduled for
Also in the works is a paved bike trail along the East Creek. Smith
plans to break ground on this new $2.7 million recreation path
soon. "After six years of development and unbelievable red tape,
construction of the very first segment will begin soon. The trail
goes along the East Creek, behind the Department of Corrections and
towards Saint Joseph's College. Volunteers and fundraising will be
critical to get the project finished. The path will be 10 feet wide
and paved. It will bring Rutland up to par with the other towns and
cities within Vermont that have been enjoying the substantial
economic, social, recreational, and health benefits of such a
project for many years now. This path will provide easy access for
commuting, social, historical, recreational, and fitness purposes,"
Pine Hill Park is located at the Giorgetti Athletic Complex in
Rutland. There is a bike shop with rentals available.