By Jim Donovan, Contributor

The Trails Committee is taking the lead in helping the town decide what portion of the Town Link Trail should be built next. The Town has $57,000 to build the next section of the trail, thanks to the generosity of Charlotte voters. The town’s long-term goal for the Town Link Trail is to connect the East and West Villages to the Town Beach. To make the most of the trail segments that have already been constructed, the Trails Committee is currently focusing on the portion of the trail between the West Charlotte Village area and the Town Beach.

To do this work as efficiently and wisely as possible, the Trails Committee started a public study in October to look at the numerous alternative off-road alignments that might be possible between the West Charlotte village and the beach, with the goal of finding, with public input, the most viable and appropriate one. To help with the study, the Trails Committee asked the Selectboard to appoint a steering committee to lead the work. The steering committee consists of representatives of other committees and boards in town that have an interest in the trail, such as the Selectboard, Planning Commission and Recreation Commission, as well as landowners both from within the study area and from other parts of town. Their role is to bring the concerns of their respective groups to the study, as well as to report back to their groups about how the study is going.

I am assisting the steering committee; I’m a Charlotte resident and landscape architect focusing on bicycle and pedestrian planning work. Together we have explored as many different off-road options as possible and evaluated them against different criteria, including user safety, aesthetic impacts, the number of easements that might be needed, the impacts to natural and cultural resources, the connection to important destinations in the area, the use of existing easements, the proximity to parking, and potential landowner concerns.

After their initial evaluations, the steering committee narrowed the options to two alignments with several alternate locations for portions of each. They held an online public work session on Nov. 11, to discuss the alternatives with town residents. Before finalizing a recommendation, they will hold two more public work sessions. The next one will be on Nov. 24, again online, to look further at the two alternatives under consideration.

After they have come up with a draft final recommended alignment, they plan on holding one last public work session online to review the recommendations with those who attend the meeting. They are also planning on presenting the final recommendations to the Selectboard in December, if they are interested in hearing the result of the study.

Look for more information about the online public work sessions on Front Porch Form. If you would like to look at the work done so far, or review the alignments, the work is posted in the Town Offices or available on the Trails Committee webpages on the town website. You can also send any questions or comments via email.