By Neil P. Allen
RUTLAND — One hundred years ago, a Rutland resident had the foresight to donate 273 acres of land on Pine Hill to the city of Rutland to be used as a park and it is still fulfilling that vision today.
On May 2, 1921, Henry O. Carpenter gave the land to Rutland with the idea that it would be developed as a park, according to the Pine Hill Park website. “[He] saw it as a recreation tract,” said Shelley Lutz, a representative from Pine Hill Partnership (PHP). PHP is the park’s current steward. “It was a sheep pasture 100 years ago,” Lutz said.
Over the next 100 years the site served many different purposes. In the early years, it was a quarry that was mined to create crushed stone for the city until 1933; then in 1934 a large fire burned 120 acres.
In 1935, Works Progress Administration (WPA) crews widened the road to Rocky Pond from a path to “wide enough for two cars” and built a “large recreation and picnic area” three-quarters of a mile north of the end of Evergreen Avenue. The National Youth Administration (NYA) built a ski run parallel to and west of the road, according to the PHP website.
In the early 1950s, the Rocky Pond Recreational Area was created and offered swimming and a picnic area. The recreational area was closed in 1957. In 1967, it was considered as a possible new location for the high school.
Three years later, the park was enlarged with a gift from the state of Vermont. A 4-mile trail was established and marked to Rocky Pond, Muddy Pond, and around the Pine Hill forest, according to the PHP website. A water and soils nature trail was also established. Over the course of the decade, ball fields and the lower parking area were constructed, and the park was dedicated as John J. Giorgetti Park on May 13, 1976. In 1977, the skating rink building was constructed. It opened on Aug. 2 with basketball courts and paddleball courts in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
In 1998, money from the estate of John Giorgetti is used to upgrade the rink building, purchase a Zamboni, and pave the upper parking lot.
Now, the park is a destination for mountain bikers, walkers and hikers with dozens of trails taking visitors all over the park, with a wide range of challenges on flowy single-track trails through difficult and rocky terrain.
According to the website, PHP was formed in the early 2000s when rumors of a housing development threatened the future of the park and the name for the park was changed to Pine Hill Park, based on historical information about the park. The nonprofit organization, in cooperation with the Rutland Recreation and Parks Dept. (RRPD), has created the trail system with all work done entirely donated
by volunteers coordinated through and by PHP.
“The partnership between the City and Pine Hill Partnership is strong and healthy. The recreation department supports the Partnership by providing logistical support for programs, collaboration on grant writing, and some upkeep,” said RRPD Director Kim Peters.
Most recently, PHP has completed the 3-mile Milk Run Trail.
“The Killington Mountain School was there [on May 20] to finish the work,” said Lutz. “It took three years to finish the trail.”
According to Lutz, the work was all done by volunteers and by hand. “It is pretty atypical not to use any trail equipment.”
The trail is one of the longest in the park, though not quite as long as Stegosaurus, according to Lutz.
Future work is on hold for now. “We’re in a holding pattern. We got a RTP grant from the state for $18,000,” said Lutz. “We’ll be using it to create Maximum Capacity and Bone Spur. We’ll start on them in 2022.”
Amusingly, the Maximum Capacity trail earned its name because the completion of it will put the park at its maximum capacity for trails.
“It is pretty dense with trails,” said Lutz.
“Last year we had 55,000 people, pedestrians and on bikes, in the park, which was higher than usual because of the pandemic,” Lutz said. “There were a lot of first-time users, hikers, walkers and mountain bikers.”
Peters said, “During the pandemic, the trail system at Pine Hill Park was essential to our community by providing an open space to stay active.”
Part of the activity came from a mountain biking boom. “It really took off last year,” said Lutz. “There are no bikes available if you want one. If you want one, you’ll be waiting a really long time.”
The increased use had its impact on the park. “There was a lot of wear and tear on the trails. The trail tread got worn down and rocks grew,” said Lutz.
When it is complete, PHP will be focused on maintenance of the trails. “The maintenance part is huge,” said Lutz.
The work, as always, will be done by volunteers, said Lutz.
Editor’s note: This story was published in the 2021 GRIP Mountain Bike Trail Guide.