We have much to be proud of in the Mad River Valley and it’s time to celebrate. I, for one, have been feeling quite proud of the progress this community has made with respect to public access to land for recreation, development of public trails and greenways, and improvements to the bicycle and pedestrian facilities within our villages over the past 25 years since I became a resident. I am especially proud of the Waitsfield Select Board for its continued support for the completion of the Waitsfield Village sidewalk system, going forward with the construction to include the new safe crosswalks for downtown.

And, kudos to the Mad River Path Association and local businesses for the exceptional progress being made to make Irasville a more walker-friendly environment with the Heart of the Valley Trail and boardwalk. Let me not fail to mention the extensive trail networks that have been developed by the Mad River Riders for mountain biking, hiking and trail running throughout The Valley’s countryside. Having played an important role in these initiatives over the 20-plus years that it has taken for these projects to bloom, I beam every time I see kids walking to schoo, or a senior citizen getting out for a stroll with a walker.

That is why I am especially honored to be asked to guide a community walk on June 2 to celebrate this progress and kick off the summer recreation season. I will be joined by Joshua Schwartz, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District, and Mark Haberle, of the Waitsfield Conservation Commission, who will regale the walkers with important and interesting aspects of the cultural and natural resources along the way. The 1.5-mile community walk will begin at 2 p.m. on Carroll Road in the center of Irasville, travel along the Heart of the Valley Trail (boardwalk) and conclude at the Lareau Farm pavilion by way of the Fiddlers Walk and Austin Walk sections of the village trail system.

Once at the Lareau Farm pavilion, let the celebration begin with the Summer Recreation Kickoff organized by the Mad River Valley Recreation District, Mad River Path Association and the Mad River Riders (4 p.m.). Along the way we will get a first look at newly installed trailhead kiosk signs that are being installed throughout The Valley’s trail system as a collaboration of the various trail and recreation organizations.

I remember our community fitness walks organized by the MRPA in the late 1990s before the Waitsfield sidewalks were improved. We demonstrated in support of the necessary improvements carrying signs with positive messages, pushing strollers and holding the hands of the younger walkers, gingerly dodging puddles and cars. Now, 20 years later, for the most part, we will be traversing well-built and maintained sidewalks and trails.

Though much progress has been made and worthy of celebration, there is still work to be done to improve the walkability of the heart of The Valley. There are some missing links and some low-hanging fruit that can be picked to continue to make Irasville safer and more accessible. Come out and celebrate with me and let’s keep the momentum going.

Kevin Russell lives in Fayston, Vermont.