By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND—Local park-goers succeeded in rerouting a popular walking loop at Northwood Park. A work party took place this past weekend to improve the trail.
But public access to the loop was nearly lost. On July 1, the city of Rutland officially closed the walking trail on its reservoir property on Post Road Extension, to protect the city’s water supply. The city-owned section had completed a one-and-a-half-mile loop that began and ended in Rutland Town’s Northwoods Park, a favorite of walkers, anglers, wildlife watchers and berry-pickers. The park has been an unrestricted community resource for walkers for at least a decade, so the closure came as a shock. The walkers voiced their dismay.
When the closure was announced, resident Bob Farrington, who walks there daily with Jackson, a 9-year-old golden retriever, thought of a compromise solution. The park offers a peaceful, varied natural environment with towering pines and hemlocks, wildflowers, small wildlife, the ever-present sound of rushing water, and even a man-made waterfall at the Glen hydro dam. He said that coming here is essential for his peace of mind and for Jackson’s enjoyment.
Farrington, 51, who grew up roaming the woods in Rutland, returned after 20 years away, and works at Carris Reels, marked out a rough detour with orange surveyor’s tape.
He walked the property with Rutland Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg to explain his plan and then talked with Byron Hathaway, highway commissioner for the town. Farrington said he was surprised when the town decided to get behind his project. “The way they pulled this together is truly amazing,” Farrington said. “I’m just a dog-walker guy.”
Everybody credits everybody else with being the driving force.
“[Bob] is the one who got it all going and it snowballed and happened very quickly,” said Mike Rowe, recreation director for the Town who works part-time at the Northwood pool. “Byron got involved with it, next thing I know I got invited to go to a meeting to discuss possible solutions and we talked it out like normal human beings, then we actually walked it and everybody saw what we were talking about and said this is great, this is going to solve the issue.”
The project has sparked enthusiasm among residents.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, Hathaway and Rowe supervised a work detail, and John Faignant, a town selectman, brought his excavator. He spent most of that day putting in two culverts, stumping pathways, and shoving aside rocks and dead trees. Faignant said they “had run into a dead end because of the culvert thing,” and said he thought it “looked like fun.”
Hathaway and Rowe finalized the plan for the trails. New trails are not being cut, but some old skid roads, from a timber harvest about 20-30 years ago, will be smoothed and cleared of storm-damaged trees. The result will be “simple little woods trails,” said Hathaway. There may be room to revive other trails in the future, he said, after a limited timber harvest is carried out this winter.
The loop will preserve most of the favorite forest environments. Wildlife are a common sight here: deer, turkey, grouse, great blue heron, ducks. Farrington doesn’t think that’s going to change. “They’re used to seeing us,” he said.
For now, the focus of the project is the east end of the 200-acre park. Other paths and roads will not be affected. Currently, walkers often park at the trailhead by the ball field and descend by several routes to the service road that runs alongside the Green Mountain Power penstock, which carries water to the Glen power station on Route 7.
GMP owns the Glen dam and adjacent service road. Speaking for GMP, Dottie Schnure said, “It’s really wonderful that they have found a path, it’s a wonderful resource. We welcome people. Our dam has gated
areas because we want to make sure people are safe when they’re nearby.”
Other access points are via the old landfill across from the new town garage or the playing field by the transfer station.
A work party took place this past weekend, with Mike Rowe manning a John Deere tractor and several volunteers wielding rakes and loppers. The section at the bottom of the hillside was still rough. The first phase is expected to be ready for use by mid-August.
The Rutland Town Select Board did not officially vote on the project but supports it. The minor cost is “something we can absorb,” Faignant explained. Rutland Town Select Board Chair Josh Terenzini commented by email: “The trail system at Northwood is a major win for the health and recreation of both the town and city communities. Whatever the city does on their land will only add to the great trail system the town is working to build now.”
“All it takes is someone that keeps pushing a little bit,” Hathaway told the Mountain Times.
Mike Rowe on the tractor and Bob Farrington with the rake work on the lower end of the Northwoods trail.