A Great Idea: Community volunteers create Huntley Meadow’s new mountain bike trail
The days are slowly becoming shorter, the nights are becoming cooler, and the long light of late August has arrived. Just as quickly as it began, summer is drawing to a close and the Upper Valley is beginning its annual shift into autumn. Soon the leaves will begin to change, temperatures will drop, apple season will kick off, and the school year will be in full swing. This passage into fall brings another significant and exciting arrival for the town of Norwich... a community-organized bike trail at Huntley Meadow. Huntley Meadow has long served as the scenic location for local sporting events, and now, after three weekends of hard work, it additionally offers a beginner mountain bike trail.
Gered Dunne, the lead volunteer, offered some history on the project as well as some insight into what an undertaking like this can mean for the community. The idea of installing a bike trail was originally floated back in 2007, but without funding the idea lost momentum. The vision was reborn in 2016 and began to come to fruition last September with the installation of a pump track at Huntley Meadow. According to Wikipedia, “A pump track is a type of off-road terrain for cycle sport consisting of a circuit of banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders ‘pumping’ – creating momentum by up and down body movements. They are relatively simple and cheap to
The vision was reborn in 2016 and began to come to fruition last September with the installation of a pump track at Huntley Meadow. According to Wikipedia, “A pump track is a type of off-road terrain for cycle sport consisting of a circuit of banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders ‘pumping’ – creating momentum by up and down body movements. They are relatively simple and cheap to construct, and cater to a wide variety of rider skill levels, so are popular in council-owned parks and schools.
Based on the popularity of the pump track, Dunne, with the help of several community members, designed a plan to extend the pump track into more of a beginner mountain bike trail. “The goal there was to kind of have an activity that kids could do when their siblings were in sports and activities and they were down there watching games. Something to do in the background, other than throw rocks into the creek,” Dunne laughed. Dunne began by going door-to-door in the neighborhood, floating the idea amongst residents to see if it would gain some traction and support “beyond the parenting contingent” of Norwich.
The next step was to speak with the town manager at the time, David Ormison, as well as the Norwich Conservation Commission; both approved the building of a ‘closed circuit, kid-safe trail’ that would also require the removal of a great deal of invasive plant species in the area. In July, the group of volunteers received a grant for $1600 from the Norwich Women’s Club which set the project in motion, additionally serving as a huge vote of confidence from the community. This grant was followed by the donation of $2000 from the Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association which funded the purchase of lumber supplies for the building of bridges and boardwalks which make the trail passable, as well as hay and grass seed to repair edging on the trail and bumps.
With this funding, the group of volunteers had the means they needed to get started. From the actual designing and building of the trail, to the construction of bridges and boardwalks, to the clearing of invasive species and general ‘cheerleading,’ a group of 15-30 volunteers ranging from children to parents to Norwich’s more seasoned trail aficionados came out to work over the course of three weekends. With the invaluable help of OTB Trail Builders of East Burke, Vermont, this group of community members created a fully functional mountain bike trail at Huntley Meadow.
Special thanks to Norwich community members Kathy Redpath, Nick Krembs, Byron Haynes, Jay Fauci, and especially Graham Webster and Jane LeMasureir for their hard work and dedication in helping to make this project happen. LeMasureir runs the mountain bike program at Marion Cross School in Norwich, which has nearly quadrupled in size since its beginning, proving the high demand for a more permanent and established mountain bike trail in the community. The trail is accessible from the sidewalk at both entrances in order to keep children from riding through the parking lot, and also has clear visibility for parents that are watching a sporting event while simultaneously keeping an eye on a youngster learning to ride their bike on the track. “The trail immediately creates a safe place for parents to take their little ones to learn how to ride bikes,” says Dunne. He goes on to say, “There’s not a lot of flat accessible trail opportunities for kids who can already ride bikes to learn how to navigate in the woods. And there’s almost no place in Norwich, and very few places in the Upper Valley where one can learn to make the jump from tricycle or strider bike to a real-live bike without training wheels.
Some start on the tennis courts, but the pump track and the kids trail, and surrounding grass fields is really the perfect spot for kids to learn and play free from cars and asphalt.” But Dunne says the work is not done yet. The next step in the project is to build a central kiosk at Huntley Meadow that can serve as a guide to different trails around Norwich for community members and visitors alike who are looking to explore this beautifully scenic pocket of the world. It goes to show what can be accomplished when you take the strength, resolve, and dedication of one group of people and pair it with the love and support of a small, closely knit community. What started as a seed of an idea can grow into a full-fledged mountain bike trail in a matter of a relatively few days of work. Dunne closed by saying, “Literally 10 different people who were talking along the trail during our workdays said: ‘Great idea! Love it! Can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner!’”