Kellyn Doerr, Community News Service
A trail project connecting Mt. Philo, the West Village and the Town Beach was approved during Town Meeting Day 2021, and the Selectboard is now reviewing plans to continue building the trail toward the beach.
The Charlotte Town Link Trail project is a partially completed, seven-mile gravel path. The completed sections of the trail include a Co-Housing section, Melissa & Trevor Mack Trail, and State Park Road. The rest of the path is in tentative design stages or seeking funding to be finished.
The Selectboard discussed the updates for the project during its March 22 meeting. Bill Regan and Laurie Thompson of the town trails committee reported that a second scoping study was done for the trail, a continuation of the one done in 2015 to 2016. This study was done from the West Village down to the beach.
The board also heard concerns from Lydia Clemmons of the Clemmons Family Farm, one of the few Black-owned farms in the state according to a 2019 Seven Days article. Clemmons said she was misquoted in the scoping study and is worried that the trail, which abuts the farm, will make it easier for people wanting to commit hate crimes to access the property.
The objective of this study was to look at preferred alignment options for the trail, which will give guidelines for where the trail will be built.
Thompson presented primary and secondary options for the trail and gave her own recommendation. She noted that the summary they put together included feedback from those involved and input from residents; the only part they could not fulfill was the trail being as “naturalistic” as the people wanted.
“Every time we come up with options for the trail, we come to the Selectboard first,” said Thompson.
The steering committee along with Thompson and Regan submitted this study as a final document to the Selectboard. There’s now an approval process for these recommendations to be the alignment options going forward. The Selectboard now will decide whether or not to accept it or make changes.
Lydia Clemmons spoke up during the meeting to share concerns about being misquoted in the scoping study report, as well as concerns about rising numbers of hate crimes in Vermont. Police have reported upticks in hate crimes in recent years, according to a 2019 VTDigger article.
Clemmons said she is concerned that with the trail being so close to the unprotected back entrance to the farm, there is a possibility for those wanting to commit hate crimes to have a direct route to the farm.
The original report stated that bushes and trees would be included along the path near the Clemmons farm to try to regulate the number of people “straying” away from the path. Clemmons believes this is not enough.
“Your white perspective about trails and walking is a privileged perspective,” said Clemmons. “If you are white and living in Vermont you might not be so aware of it, but we are Black and living in Charlotte.”
Clemmons notes before the report is to be approved, she needs to be accurately quoted and for these changes to be made. Selectboard chair Matt Krasnow acknowledged her concerns and assured these are the early stages and they will satisfy her concerns.
For more information on the Charlotte Trails visit the Town Trail website.