By Karen D. Lorentz
The high elevation CCC Road between North Shrewsbury and Route 100 in Plymouth will reopen this month, according to Stewardship Forester Lisa Thorton of the Rutland office of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR).
Thorton said in an email to the Mountain Times that “Similar to previous years, the gates will likely be opened mid-to-late May, before Memorial Day. The road is always open to foot traffic,” she added.
The gates that cross the road barring vehicular traffic are located just before the Shrewsbury Peak trailhead parking area (where the town’s road ends and the state’s section of road begins), by the Black Swamp trail parking area, and at the Route 100 road entrance in Plymouth.
The road doesn’t open earlier due to its high elevation—over 2,200 feet above sea level in many places as it crosses the spine of the Green Mountains. Thornton noted that it is necessary to “wait for frost to leave the ground and [the] road surface to harden.” Additionally, crews have to repair any washouts and surface damage and remove any trees that have fallen, she noted. “Before opening the gates to vehicle traffic the entire length of the road needs to be in good condition. There are sections that are frost-free sooner just as there are others that take longer,” she explained.
Thorton said, “Work on the CCC road is and has been done by contractors, the Shrewsbury road crew and FPR.”
The beginning of the CCC dirt road was regraded on the North Shrewsbury side on May 11 as far as the last residence on the road (about a mile of town road).
Shrewsbury Road Commissioner Jamie Carrara, who has been grading town roads for 30 years now, said he will grade the state section of road again this year. When he gets the call that the gates are down, he checks out the road to see what condition it is in. If it is in good shape, he may not grade it right away but if in bad shape, he tries to get to it immediately as many Shrewsbury residents and commuters use the road.
Citing its shortcut convenience to get to Killington, Woodstock and New Hampshire, he said he personally could have used the road several times already so he understands the public’s interest. People living on the east side of the road and travellers also use the road as a shortcut to Rutland and other western Vermont destinations.
Asked about why it takes so long for the road to harden, Carrara said that although the snow may have melted elsewhere by early April, it takes longer at the high elevation. He also explained that even though loggers plowed the road from the Shrewsbury side to “almost as far as Tinker Brook” this winter, plowing actually allows more frost to get into the ground. The road’s use for snowmobiling also packs the snow down causing it to melt later and thus take longer to harden, he noted.
Carrara will personally grade the town road to the first gate and then the 3.3 miles that the state oversees to the Plymouth/Route 100 gate. (To check on the exact reopening date, check out the town’s website shrewsburyvt.org.)
“The gates at Route 100 and Black Swamp are usually closed around the first week of November. The closure at the North Shrewsbury end is later and related to its use as a snowmobile trail (keeping vehicles off the trail and damaging the groomed surface). We’ve chosen actual dates/target times so that it’s more predictable to people who use the road and they can make plans accordingly,” Thornton said.
Asked about hiking the Shrewsbury Peak Trail and Black Swamp Trail (to Shrewsbury Peak), Thorton said, “We ask hikers not to hike trails when muddy. High elevation trails are particularly vulnerable during mud season.” The good news is that “They ‘open’ for Memorial Day” and by that time the road will be open to vehicles to access the respective trailheads.
The historic CCC Road, which was cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps troops lodged in North Shrewsbury and Plymouth in 1934, was closed for two years after Tropical Storm Irene took out several sections, necessitating culvert work and significant rebuilding on the steep Plymouth side. It didn’t reopen until June 2014, which was a great relief for local residents and commuters as well as sightseers and those travellers with GPS who use the winding dirt road as a shortcut.
Drivers should be aware that there are several places where the road is narrow and two vehicles cannot pass, i.e. it is essentially to a one-lane road, which requires a vehicle to pull over to allow another to proceed. Caution and vigilance are required to negotiate sections and hairpin turns, but the scenic views and glances of wildlife make it worth going slow, as do the hikes to Shrewsbury Peak.
Photo by Karen D. Lorentz
Road Commissioner Jamie Carrara grades the popular CCC Road which serves as a west-east shortcut for residents of Shrewsbury and area towns during the summer.