The Latest Dirt on the Trails
By Chelle Grald
Our year on the trails started early in 2016 with a warm, dry spring. We had the luxury of being able to safely check the trails on all of the Member’s Loops before Memorial Day. Other than some downed trees, there were very few maintenance needs. We smoothed out some ruts and damaged waterbars created by motorized vehicles on some of the local Class 4 roads that we frequently use. We enlisted a ‘clipping brigade’ of mounted volunteers who rode all of the Member’s Loops and clipped low hanging branches along the way. We made a few trips with the chain saw to do some heavier maintenance in a few areas. One small section of trail received a major upgrade, including new waterbars, ditching and an erosion control membrane under a new layer of gravel. This trail, called the Stone House Farm trail, was repaired in cooperation with the North Country Hounds and the two landowners. It is a part of the Blue Trail on the 100-Mile Ride and is an important connector to a very large system of trails in Hartland.
New Adventures Await
This year, we explored two new trail systems – one in Bridgewater and one around Mt. Ascutney in West Windsor. We ran small organized trail rides on both networks that were very well received. There is more exploring to do and more adventures to have in those areas in 2017. Through generous landowners, we were able to open up, repair and use a very helpful trail that enables us to avoid two rather busy and narrow roads in Hartland. We are working on opening up two more routes directly from GMHA that allow us to get on and off the property without traveling along the road.
This year, we completed an ambitious effort to accurately map all of our Member’s Loop trails and the entire 100-Mile course with survey-quality GPS. We also mapped some of the additional trails used commonly for our pleasure rides. In 2017 we will continue to add more trails as we use them. The goal, slated for 2018, is to have all of the GMHA-utilized roads and trails accurately mapped in digital form to make course planning and maintenance much more efficient.
The trail preservation work continues as we actively maintain our existing 26 trail easements and work within the community to identify more prospective trails. Together with the Easement Advisory Committee, we are creating a strategic map with short- and long-range goals. I have met with the Upper Valley Board of Realtors and the West Windsor Conservation Commission this summer to discuss ways that we can collaborate and spread the message about the value of conserved trails. We actively participate in joint care of the trails with the North Country Hounds, Upper Valley Land Trust, and VAST. This year we have also worked to strengthen communication with the local mountain bike groups who are becoming much more active with events and trails management.