Faulkner Trail Improvements Lead the Way to Artistic Collaborations
If you’ve been lucky enough to hike up the Faulkner Trail on Mount Tom this summer, chances are you’ve seen some of the great work that’s been happening up there! This collaboration was no exception.
If you’ve been lucky enough to hike up the Faulkner Trail on Mount Tom this summer, chances are you’ve seen some of the great work that’s been happening up there – youth crews installing new trail surfacing, trail builders reconstructing 6’ high trail retaining walls and craftsmen creating a new trailhead entry area. And now the Trail is graced with a beautiful handcrafted bench courtesy of a partnership between ArtisTree, the National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program, Peter Jensen & Associates professional trail builders, and the Faulkner Trust. Artists Ben Fox and Chris Kirchhof combined planks of black locust wood with found iron wagon wheels, the result is an elegant yet rustic resting place with a bit of history and art to tie it all together.
ArtisTree, with a mission to make the arts accessible to all, was excited to work on this joint project with the Park. The bench site is located in an area that allows hikers to take in both the recent restoration work of the Faulkner Trail as well as the trail landmark of the beautiful Stone Bridge and amazing old growth trees. With the bold lines of the wagon wheels and the broad planks of locust, the bench finds an artistic and fitting home on a new stone retained wayside area - a must-see for locals and visitors alike.
The Faulkner Trail, created in 1936, was modeled after cardiac rehabilitation trails in the spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany. Woodstock resident Marianne Galliard Faulkner created the trail and Faulkner Park, where it originates, in memory of her husband, Edward, who suffered from arthritis and sought respite in Baden-Baden. Over the decades the Faulkner Trail has deteriorated, becoming less accessible, more damaged and eroded and more difficult for some local residents to use. Benches created years ago by Willy Franklinwere much enjoyed but are largely gone now due to their age and damage from fallen trees. This new bench project will hopefully launch an ongoing collaboration with area artists to create new benches all along the Trail.
Restoration of the Faulkner Trail not only caretakes a much-loved local treasure, but also creates a unique opportunity to enhance the trail to meet new standards for outdoor accessibility. Professional trail builder Peter Jensen has been overseeing the restoration work. “This trail was ahead of its time,” says Jensen, “in terms of the alignment that was undertaken, and its easy five percent grade. That, plus the well-designed drainage, make this a sustainable trail that, once restored, will be in good shape for a long time to come - another century or more. Reconstruction of the Faulkner Trail is an investment in the heritage and future of Woodstock. Residents and visitors alike will have a resource available for increasing their wellness and reconnecting their physical, mental and spiritual selves to the natural world.”
When the Faulkner Trail restoration is complete, three distinct sections of the trail will offer different levels of accessibility. The first section, from the trailhead kiosk to the Stone Bridge (an original feature of the trail) will be universally accessible. The second section, from the Stone Bridge to the overlook at the top of the historic Faulkner Trail, will be an improved hiking trail. And lastly, the section up to South Peak will remain a more rigorous hiking trail.
What would Marianne Faulkner say if she could see today’s improvements? Perhaps she’d see it as a further memorial to her husband, whose condition inspired her to base the trail’s original design on that of the Baden-Baden trails. And perhaps she’d see it as a fitting expansion of her vision, which sought to make the beauty of Mount Tom accessible to all.
Blog Contributed by Tayo Skarrow of ArtisTree and Jennifer Waite of the MBR National Historical Park.
To learn more about the National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program, Peter Jensen & Associates professional trail builders, the Faulkner Trust and ArtisTree, visit the sites below: