The Mad River Path Association has just begun Phase 2 of a three-phase master planning project designed to determine the best course for a path from Warren to Moretown and the best way to achieve that continuous path. Path association board members completed Phase 1 this spring.
The first phase of the project was for a committee of the path association to identify several conceptual routes that the path could follow from Warren to Moretown.
During the second phase, the path association will be contacting all of the private landowners along the path corridor to listen and learn what landowners think about the path. Members of the community can learn more about the second and third phases of the path association’s master planning at tonight’s annual meeting which takes place at the Waitsfield Inn at 5 p.m.
The second phase of the planning project now getting underway is for the path association to meet with all of the approximately 85 private landowners along the conceptual routes. These meetings will be an opportunity for the path association to listen and learn what landowners think about the path, what ideas landowners might have about the route of the path and to learn what obstacles might exist to completing the path.
Using the information learned from landowners, the path association will, as part of the final phase of the project, identify the best possible route for the path and what additional steps need to be taken to facilitate the path’s creation. The three phases of the project will take more than a year to complete.
According to path association director Will Flender, the goal of the master planning project is to identify the single best possible route for the path and to understand what it will take to create a permanently protected and continuous path from Warren to Moretown. That may mean purchasing easements where necessary, he said.
“We are certainly hopeful that landowners will continue their generosity toward the path by donating trail easements. However, we recognize that donating an easement may not be possible for all landowners. So, we have discussed purchasing easements in certain situations. We do not have the funds in house to do that, so we would need to raise the money from the community and other sources in order to make a purchase. This means that any purchases will be carefully considered by our board. This is also one of the motivations underlying the Master Planning effort,” Flender said.
“If we do end up purchasing easements, we want to make sure those easements will connect somewhere. So, it is important for us to take a holistic view of the entire corridor,” he said.
He added that the master planning project is about more than purchasing easements, it is also about listening to landowners and learning about their perceptions of the path and what other resources, information or assistance the organization can and should provide.
“This might include better information about landowner immunities from liability when they host the path, more information about the flexibility our trail easements provide in locating and relocating the path or perhaps it might be more information about the tax deductibility of donating a trail easement (landowner agreements are not tax deductible),” he said.
“We also want to learn which landowners are simply not comfortable with having the path cross their property. It is certainly a disappointment for us when landowners tell us they are uncomfortable with the path crossing their property. However, we respect their wishes and welcome this important feedback. Ultimately, we only want to acquire (by donation or otherwise) trail easements from landowners who are willing to have the path cross their land. And, ultimately, I'm sure our conversations with landowners will reveal other information that none of us have anticipated learning,” he continued.
The path association is a member-supported nonprofit organization whose mission is to build, maintain and conserve a system of continuous public pathways from Warren to Moretown to foster a healthy community by connecting the people, businesses and special places of the Mad River Valley. To learn more about the path or the MRPA, visit www.madriverpath.com.
Anyone who would like to learn more about the Master Planning project, the work of the path association or the path in general is invited to attend the path association’s annual meeting, tonight, starting at 5 p.m. at the Waitsfield Inn. Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available.