In September 2013, the Green Mountain Club (GMC) began an historic project that had been discussed for more than 100 years: a footbridge across the Winooski River in Bolton — the missing link for the Long Trail.
Legislation was passed in 1913 to appropriate $500 to build a bridge over the Winooski in Bolton for the Long Trail. The bill was “…for the purpose of building a foot bridge across the Winooski river in the town of Bolton opposite the Central Vermont Railroad Company’s passenger station so as to connect the ‘Long Trail’ leading from Mount Mansfield to Camel’s Hump.”
GMC, caretakers of the Long Trail, broke ground on this historic project in a ceremony with Governor Peter Shumlin, Governor Howard Dean, Senator Dick Mazza, Commissioner Mike Snyder and club members.
Today, the Long Trail features a 3.5 mile road walk which, when the bridge and trail relocation project is finished, will be reduced to a few hundred yards.
The 224’ suspension footbridge will be built by the Green Mountain Club with major concrete, with excavation and tower erection done by professionals.
GMC expects completion of bridge footings on both sides of the river, and the erection of the steel towers, to be finished this fall.
During the summer of 2014, the club’s staff will string the cables, install the access ramps and stairs, and install the decking. GMC expects the bridge to open for public use in the fall of 2014.
The Long Trail Patrol spent most of its summer and fall field season constructing the trail relocation during the 2014 field season. When the bridge opens for hikers in 2014, this stretch of the Long Trail will connect the bridge to Bolton Mountain and Mt. Mansfield.
The Long Trail south of the Winooski River will also be relocated within Camels Hump State park in close partnership with the state of Vermont. The club hopes to cut a stretch of the Long Trail along the Winooski River between the bridge site and Honey Hollow. This would be a roughly 1.5 mile river walk unlike any other stretch of the Long Trail. It would skirt along and across pasture land which are part of the state park.
Additionally, the Long Trial would be relocated away from the lower part of Bamforth Ridge to connect directly with the river walk portion near Honey Hollow. This aspect of the project is not expected to take place until after the bridge is completed.
The trail to the bridge itself will meander through forest land owned by the town of Bolton between the bridge and Route 2. It will also walk along Route 2 between the state highway and the interstate on a path. The trail will proceed under the interstate along Bolton Notch Road before reentering the woods.
As a result of these trail relocation projects, parts of today’s Long Trail will no longer be white blazed. However, thanks to the support and work of volunteers from the Burlington and Montpelier Sections of the Green Mountain Club each part of today’s Long Trail is expected to remain open and maintained in the future. These blue blazed trails will include Bamforth Ridge, Duck Brook, and trail-north from Bolton Notch Road.
The Green Mountain Club has raised more than $1 million from its members for this project. This does not even include all the financial support from club members toward the Long Trail Protection Campaign over the last twenty years which has resulted in conservation of the entire ridgeline around Bolton Valley including land along Oxbow Ridge and Bolton, Ricker and Bone Mountains.
In addition, the state of Vermont has contributed more than $500,000 toward land conservation and bridge construction. The capital appropriations are part of the long-standing GMC-state partnership for protecting the Long Trail.
As of October 2013, the Green Mountain Club was seeking to raise an additional $300,000 for this project. Increased costs have resulted from the complexity and uniqueness of the project. In addition, the club feels strongly that acquisition of the additional parcel in Bolton will greatly improve the trail route and have the added benefit of connecting parts of the state forest.