By MADELINE HUGHES
Anxious to complete the Town Link Trail, the Trails Committee is working on a new grant application for the State Park Road portion of the trail.
“We are all very excited,” committee co-chair Laurie Thompson said after meeting with the Selectboard on Monday. “It’s a significant section of the trail connecting Mt. Philo to the two miles of completed trails.”
The committee is focusing on completing a portion of the trail that would connect Mt. Philo State Park with the existing Melissa and Trevor Mack Trail, which runs along Route 7 between State Park Road and the new underpass to the north.
The trails committee brought the grant application to the Selectboard and explained that it’s seeking to maximize potential grants by asking for the highest amount — $50,000. The grant would cover less than half the project cost, estimated at $117,000. It also would require a 20 percent match from the town. The committee proposed allocating the $66,000 in the trail reserve funds to cover the $117,000 project.
Members of the Selectboard challenged the committee’s request.
Wasn’t the purpose of the reserve to leverage grant funds, board member Matthew Kransnow asked, referring to the $40,000 voters approved for the fund on Town Meeting Day in 2017.
Committee members said this grant was leveraging funds.
At the time, the committee was hoping to get a Vermont Agency of Transportation grant, which is why Thompson said the funds could be matched up to $200,000.
“We don’t have control over what the state does for grants,” Thompson explained after the meeting.
The committee was awarded state funds from with a 20 percent match in 2016 for a study, but in 2017 was denied the grant to build the trail.
The current application is for a state recreation grant, which asks for a reasonable beginning and end to the designed trail. To complete the section of the trail could potentially cost up to $117,000.
“There are things we can do to defray the costs” such as volunteering, Thompson explained. For other trails in town, the committee has organized volunteers who raked, seeded and worked on drainage, she added.
“It’s amazing how many people come out for what we call our ‘work day,’” Thompson said. “It’s one of the most fun things we do… every time in the last eight years people other than committee members showed up to help.”
The Selectboard unanimously supported the grant application, which will be finalized at next Monday’s meeting. The grant is due to the state by Jan. 1.
Adding equestrians to the equation
During the application process, it was brought to the committee’s attention that the town plan calls for equestrian trails in town. The committee did not proceed with making this section of the trail equestrian-friendly at this time, but said they will look into it.
Thompson said this question is is a good place to start for 2019 and future planning.
“We are going to come up with a master plan (of trails) for the town,” she said. “I do think part of the link trail would be suitable for horses. The underpass would be a perfect way for them to get across Route 7, because that’s a stumbling block for everyone in town.”
• Nonprofit organizations are putting in their requests to the Selectboard for annual allocations that will be decided on Town Meeting Day in March. Charlotte News Editor Melissa O’Brien and board President Vincent Crockenberg came to the Selectboard on Monday asking for $1,000. The nonprofit newspaper doubled its request from last year, when townspeople voted on the floor of town meeting to give the paper $500.
Voters this year approved just over $25,000 in donations to community organizations.
• The Highway Department asked for a $20,000 budget increase to provide resources to prevent the spread of emerald ash borer, an invasive insect species which destroys ash trees. The insects have made their way to Vermont, but are not found yet in Chittenden or Addison counties. The money would go towards taking an inventory of trees on public land, and removing some of the ash trees in town.