At the March 3 Town Meeting, voters will be asked to approve a request by the Charlotte Trails Committee to fund the next section of the Town Link Trail. As an all-volunteer committee of local taxpayers, we take seriously our responsibility to use our collective funds wisely and efficiently. We would like to outline reasons why we think our request for funding, detailed in Article 5 on the Town Meeting ballot, is worth your consideration.

Trails improve Charlotte’s quality of life

The system of trails and parks in Charlotte offers residents the opportunity to walk, run, bike and ski through our beautiful landscapes, connect us to each other and nature and celebrate Charlotte’s cherished heritage. Governor Scott, in his recent State of the State address, identified population loss as the number one threat to Vermont’s economic future. Trail systems increase our quality of life and make Charlotte more likely to attract and retain people, especially younger people with families. Visit urban and suburban areas in the Northeast that draw young people away from Vermont, and you will find trail systems in which those municipalities invested years ago and now tout as essential to their quality of life.

Trails keep us and our children safe and healthy

Trails allow us to visit neighbors and Charlotte’s many amenities without getting into our cars or risking our safety on busy roads. In a wonderfully rural area like Charlotte, where we do not have the luxury of sidewalks and public transportation, it’s all the more important to give people opportunities to get around and be active without burning fossil fuels or risking life and limb. Imagine if we and our kids could walk from the west village to the Town Beach without dodging speeding vehicles on Ferry Road, or if we could walk to Mt. Philo without adding our cars to those crowding the parking lot there?

Trails are financially responsible

As much as trails can cost (engineering studies, permitting processes and construction), they are one of the least expensive ways to improve the infrastructure in our community. Our trails include affordable, unpaved surfaces and are situated either on land the public already owns or on easements generously offered by private landowners. Private donations help cover costs not met by town funds, which has become especially important as grant money has dried up in recent years. Volunteers help build and maintain the trails, further keeping costs in check. The trails committee, which has one of the smallest budgets of all the town committees, has a track record of building trail sections on time and on budget. Trail systems can raise local home values and increase visits by non-residents to our businesses.

Trails have wide public support

A recent survey shows that 82% of Charlotte respondents support extending the trail along State Park Road to Mt. Philo, a project we expect to complete in 2020. A state-run trail count showed as many as 100 people using the Town Link Trail on a Saturday in the fall and about 50 on a weekday. The Charlotte Town Plan, approved by public vote in 2018, includes language supporting the Town Link Trail and other recreational paths.

For these reasons, the trails committee hopes you will vote in favor of Article 5 at Town Meeting. That article will ask for $57,000 to connect the current northern end of the Town Link Trail, near the Champlain Valley Cohousing, to the west village, and start the path from there toward Lake Road and eventually the Town Beach. In the longer run, we want to connect the east and west villages with a trail. We arrived at the $57,000 figure on the basis of per-mile estimates from experienced trail building companies in Vermont. Like most things in life, the cost per mile of trail construction has only gone up over the years. The sooner we can complete the Town Link Trail, the more money we will save Charlotte taxpayers in the end.

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