Mad River Path Association, in conjunction with Waitsfield Elementary School, will purchase four acres of land surrounding the school as well as a trail easement across the field located north of the school.
The land will be purchased by Mad River Path Association and immediately donated to the school for future school uses. Mad River Path Association will retain a trail easement permitting the construction of a quarter-mile-long path behind the school. In addition to purchasing the land, the path association will also receive, by donation, a second quarter-mile-long trail easement across land located north of the school. Combined, the two trail easements will allow for the construction of one-half mile of trail parallel to the Mad River. The new trail will connect to the school, Mad River Valley Visitor Center at General Wait House and Waitsfield's sidewalk network. A short set of steps will also be installed down the riverbank to provide public access to the Mad River.
To date, the $60,000 in private donations and a donation from Waitsfield School PTA has been raised to complete the purchase. "We are all so grateful to the donors who are making this collaborative and exciting community project a success," said Mad River Path Association executive director William Flender. He went on to say that this marks the organization's first capital campaign.
"Our feeling was that a path connecting to the school was so important to the community that we had to step up, raise the money and get the project done," Flender said, noting that this is the first time the path association will purchase land.
Waitsfield will become the last school in The Valley to have direct trail access just steps from its doors. Warren, Fayston and Moretown Elementary Schools, as well as Harwood Union High School all enjoy adjacent trail systems. Until now, Waitsfield did not enjoy the same benefit.
Waitsfield Elementary School principal Kaiya Korb said, "A trail allowing safe access to the fields, forests and river that shape our community will be a tremendous asset to our school, providing both recreational and curricular opportunities."
Acquiring the property in order to provide additional recreational opportunities has long been a priority for the community. In addition to a new trail, the property will also secure public ownership of the school's sledding hill and will mean that existing playground equipment and other outdoor elements can be replaced or expanded in the future.
The land to be acquired will also permit future expansions of the school building. At this point, no plans exist to expand any outdoor elements or the school building. For the immediate future the school hopes local farmer Elwin Neill will continue to utilize the tillable portion of the land as he has for many years.
Flender expects the purchase of the land will close sometime before the end of June. After that, the path association plans to install a six-foot-wide crushed stone path. The new path is designed to accommodate the community's smallest bicycle riders and hikers as they explore the fields and wetlands and visit the river. The process of obtaining the necessary permits to construct the path has begun. Flender expects construction of the new path will occur during the summer of 2015. Meanwhile, the path association continues to raise the remaining $8,500 needed to fund the construction of the new path. Donations to the project may be directed to Mad River Path Association via its website or by mail to P.O. Box 683, Waitsfield, VT 05673.
Mad River Path Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization working to create a network of public pathways throughout the Mad River Valley. To learn more about the organization, visit www.madriverpath.com.