Selectboard approves Town Link Trail work

SCOOTER MACMILLAN
Staff Writer

Another missing link in the evolution of the Charlotte Town Link Trail is closer to realization after the Monday, Nov. 4, meeting of the Charlotte Selectboard. The board approved preliminary work on the trail before winter sets in.

Margaret Russell of the Trails Committee, who sat in for chair Laurie Thompson, said that the committee agreed with the selectboard that an overseer of the project was needed and “ we need the volunteers to commit that they’re going to see the project through.”

Dave Garbose, who was in the audience, has recruited a large group of volunteers to build next section planned for construction, the half-mile from the Melissa and Trevor Mack Memorial Trail to the Mt. Philo parking lot. He said the volunteers he has recruited are experienced professionals and that they can build this section in one day.

“A vast majority of Charlotte residents have always agreed that a trail along the State Park Road, connecting the trail system to the state park, was desirable. Twelve years after the Mack Trail was completed, two years after a multi-million dollar tunnel under Route 7 was created, there’s still no trail,” said Garbose. “I don’t want to ask people for more than one day.”

He asked the board to release $24,000 to $30,000 so they can go ahead and work on the trail on Nov. 23. If they don’t finish it, he said, there’s still plenty of money in the Trails Committee budget and they can recruit some more people.

Robert Mack, who was a very vocal proponent for prompt action on building the trail, did say that he didn’t think the trail could be completed in one day.

Mack said that he had rock that he would donate to the trail that came from tennis court construction in Shelburne. The rock is bigger rock that could serve as a base, but there would still need to be smaller rock bought for the surface.

Mack and Garbose both expressed strong sentiments that the trail could and should be finished in November. In an exchange with selectboard member Fritz Tegatz, Mack said that although he didn’t think it could be finished in one day, he did think this section of this section of the trail along State Park Road would take less than a week.

Chair Matt Krasnow said in the five years he’s been on the selectboard they have spent over $100,000 for building new trails. “That’s an accomplishment I think that’s getting glossed over in the frustration.”

“This is a construction project of an unprecedented nature. We’ve never done a crowd-sourced 24-hour blitz construction project. It’s a novelty and I applaud the creativity,” said Krasnow.

He suggested starting the trail project in November by working on cutting the trail, brush-hogging it, cutting trees and doing preliminary work and finishing up the trail in the spring.

“So, what’s the big deal if we don’t get it 100% complete? At least it’s a start,” said audience member Jack Pilla. “Your concern about volunteers  – if you look around Chittenden County, we have hundreds of miles of trails that have been created by volunteers. One is the Fellowship of the Wheel. They have created all over Chittenden County.”

I’m feeling really frustrated. An hour and half ago, I’m running on Lake Road with my dog. I had to jump off the road with my dog into a gully or I’d be dead right now. We need trails.”

While there were very vocal opinions expressed by some in the audience that the trail could be completed before winter, Krasnow said he could not support approving an expenditure for all of the construction costs for this section at this time.

“We went through the town purchasing process and put out to bid the last section of trail. It was an approximately $90,000 trail. The company that was awarded the bid is known as the best trail building company in the state, maybe the Northeast. The following year there was a $9,000 washout to that trail system,” he said. “That’s my point about construction standards, accountability and the liability to the town. It’s really thinking about having responsibly built municipal projects. I just don’t see that homework being done.”

Krasnow said that moving forward with the preliminary work of blazing the trail is “a level of risk that seems responsible” and would result in a trail that would be walkable and skiable this winter. This would also give the Trails Committee and the selectboard the time to plan the construction project.

The board approved the blazing of the trail. The vote was 4-0 because selectboard member Louise McCarren, who was not feeling well, had left earlier in the meeting.

The motion approved spending money from the Trails Committee budget on three culverts and extensions and any rock needed beyond that which is being donated. The installation is to be done by Lewis Excavation, a company owned by road commissioner Junior Lewis.

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