2015: The Latest Dirt on the Trails
By Chelle Grald
A warm and dry year has been kind to the trails. The work we did last Fall to address erosion and water damage in West Windsor and Reading has held beautifully. This summer we took advantage of the conditions and repaired one very gooey but important section of trail at the end of Calendar Hill Road in Hartland. Member and volunteer Steve Grover from Hartland provided the expertise and the excavator. The result was cleaned and enhanced water bars and a system for handling water at the base of the trail that will helpfully halt the erosion in a major trail intersection. The rest of the maintenance this year has been an unprecedented amount of ‘tree-age’ – this year the conditions seem to be ideal for falling trees. Thankfully, our trail stewards and landowners have been vigilant and creative as we have worked together to keep the trails clear. As always, if you see anything that needs attention on the trail, I am all ears.
New Adventures Await
Thanks to the expanding generosity of landowners, we have been able to utilize more trails than ever. New sections of trail have become available in all 4 of our area towns. This year, we put together a section of trail in Woodstock that made it possible for carriage drivers to enjoy many more miles of off-road terrain on their competitive drives. We are working with another enthusiastic landowner to restore a vast section of carriage trails right in our backyard.
Members’ Loop Expansion & Mapping Project
The acquisition of the Rush Meadow Ring and its use as a trailhead is a great step forward for our trails program. Now, riders can park and ride from the Ring anytime our main grounds are otherwise occupied with an event. There are 2 new Member’s Loops from that location that are even carriage-friendly. Along with the new loops, we have improved our mapping of all Members’ Loops, so we can now offer accurate, easy-to-follow maps of all loops to our members.
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.
This year we have made great strides in increasing dialogue with neighbors, landowners, trail use organizations, and riders. One of the most encouraging things to see has been how eager the riders are to express their appreciation to landowners either in person when they meet on the land, or by sending hand-written expressions of what this area and these trails mean to them. Finally, we are gearing up to exhibit at Equine Affaire this year to bring our message and mission to a wider New England audience, which is sure to raise awareness of the advantages of GMHA membership for trail riders. There truly is no place like our area for sheer beauty, abundance, and miles of good trail. We end this season with great promise for 2016.