Derek Yackel and family

Derek Yackel and family hit the trail.

There has been a lot of debate over the years on the Town Link Trail in Charlotte. Much of that debate has included the constructive give-and-take that is the hallmark of a healthy democratic process.

Regrettably, some of the debate has included misinformation about trails’ costs and benefits. While people can argue any public policy issue almost endlessly, the proof on the Town Link Trail and other trails in Charlotte is, as they say, in the pudding.

The need for our residents to recreate outdoors locally and safely because of the coronavirus has put more people on Charlotte’s trails than ever before. Large numbers of individuals and families can be seen taking walks, runs, and bike rides on the trails. One such family — Derek Yackel, his partner, three kids, and dog — without prompting told a volunteer trail crew in mid-May that the Town Link Trail “has been a lifesaver” during the lockdown. In a backhanded compliment, the only complaint we have received during this period was about so many people using the Town Link Trail that some ventured onto neighbors’ branch trails (new signs now ask users to stay on the main trail).

It is unlikely that, once the coronavirus crisis passes, people will unlearn the value of Charlotte’s trails.

This usage comes at a relatively low cost. Trails are located on public rights of way and donated private easements, and are maintained by volunteers and, when needed, local contractors. Some trails are simple walking paths through woods and meadows. Some require more elaborate construction — including gravel surfaces, culverts, and short boardwalks — to account for diverse users and environmental factors.

Which brings us to the Town budget re-vote on June 23, when voters will be asked to affirm the decision at Town Meeting to spend $57,000 to construct another section of the Town Link Trail. That is a sizeable amount of money, especially during these difficult economic times. But the cost is far less than the Town pays each year for other services we cannot imagine doing without, including the library, senior center, and recreation. The money will stay local because it will pay for construction workers and materials from our area, helping small businesses get back on their feet.

Coronavirus has shown that investing in Town amenities has paid off in improved quality of life, safety, health, and in attracting and retaining the population Charlotte needs to sustain its all-important schools, farms, and businesses. Please join us in voting in favor of the trails’ budget (Article 4) either in person at Town Hall on June 23 or by mail-in ballot, which is already available from the helpful folks at Town Hall.

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