By Elizabeth Bassett | The Charlotte News
Wearing rubber boots and carrying a map, Margaret Russell met me by Fortin’s Veggie Barn on Lake Road. “There will be a Town Link Trail sign here,” Margaret says, pointing down a mowed path stretching to the east. “Let’s start walking.”
The trail was wide and smooth as we strolled along. “Chris Fortin mows this section when he hays our fields,” Margaret says. We turned south and into a stand of trees. “Chris used his stump grinder and harrow rake here,” she says of the soft dirt trail that winds through the woods. We passed a cluster of ironwood trees, their trunks twisting like muscle sinews. Of course there is lots of buckthorn, too.
“Whose land is this?” I ask.
“It belongs to my husband, Michael, and me. When the trail crosses private land the Town of Charlotte must get an easement from the owners,” Margaret explains.
We transitioned from woods to scrub on a recently cut trail. Every now and then we tripped over roots and small stumps. Soon we were at the now-defunct train station.
The Trails Committee, led by co-chairs Margaret Russell and Stephany Hasse, has a well-developed vision for a seven-mile trail running from Mt. Philo to the Town Beach via the West Village. “I hope that one day the whole trail will be gravel so that someone can ride a bike from one end to the other,” says Margaret.
A model for this trail is the TAM—the Trail Around Middlebury. “That trail is much longer, but it’s similar, a point-to-point trail with some loops off of it,” Margaret says. “We have places to stop for berries [Charlotte Berry Farm and Pelkey’s], wine [Pelkey’s], veggies, and pumpkins [Fortin’s]. The plan includes a spur into the village where the Old Brick Store and Little Garden Market await. I also dream of one day having some art along the trail.”
Several sections are complete with gravel—the Trevor and Melissa Mack Trail from Lower Old Town Trail to State Park Road and the co-housing section that runs from Greenbush Road to the ball fields next to the Charlotte Berry Farm on Route 7.
“Next summer the state will be improving Route 7. They will include an underpass for the trail,” Margaret says. “We have also received a $50,000 VTrans planning grant that will allow us to engineer the stretch along State Park Road to connect the Mack Trail to Mt. Philo State Park.”
Margaret and I continued our exploration, crossing Ferry Road and walking behind the Charlotte Family Health Center. We passed through another wooded stretch and skirted a private home that was once part of the Burns property, then up and down Barber Hill behind the Old Lantern. I was glad to have a guide as this section of trail is not well identified or signed.
Later in the afternoon I explored the co-housing section of trail. Signs mark the designated parking along the access road. The trailhead is just a few hundred feet from the clustered homes.
There are always pleasant surprises in the outdoors—a bird, a fox or a skunk. I have walked this trail before yet each time I am struck by the beauty of the land, out of sight (if not sound) of habitation. Mt. Philo looms ahead. I turn around at Route 7 but not before finding a family sharing a picnic in the middle of the trail.
One day, before too long, a picnic in the middle of the trail will not be a good idea. When Margaret and the Trails Committee’s dream comes true we will be walking, biking or skiing this distance, from mountain to shore via the village.
“Why invest so much time and energy in this project?” I ask.
“Because it is the one thing that will outlast me,” Margaret says.
For more information, visit charlottetrailsvt.org/townlink/.