Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Environmental group gives Adopt-a-Trail program $1,000

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
November 25, 2005

VERNON — The newly created Adopt-a-Trail program has received a financial boost in the form of a $1,000 grant from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.

The Adopt-a-Trail program was started in August by the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park of Vernon Inc., and the Parks and Recreation Department as a way to involve local residents and businesses in the maintenance of the town's more than 30 miles of hiking trails.

To participate in the program, local businesses can sponsor a section of the trail by donating $200 in cash or in-kind materials.

The business then selects a section of the trail. A sign recognizing their participation in the program is posted to tell visitors about that business's contribution. Donations are tax-deductible.

Meanwhile, residents can participate at one of three levels: trail manager, trail worker, or greenway monitor.

The trail manager has overall responsibility for a section of the trail, while the trail worker participates in the actual repair and maintenance of their respective section.

The greenway monitor is responsible for identifying and reporting problem areas that need correction.

Don Bellingham, the program's coordinator, said the organization has signed up 11 sponsors for the trail system and hopes to add more. That group is made up of a mix of businesses and local residents, he said.

Last weekend, many sponsors teamed up to clear away brush that had begun to obscure the trail system from sunlight, Bellingham said.

Bellingham said the $1,000 grant would likely be used for start-up costs, like purchasing signs to recognize the trail's sponsors and the acquisition of lumber and other supplies.

The grant is rewarding, Bellingham said, because the fund is known to be "very selective."

"They seem very enthusiastic about the general idea of what we're doing," he said. "People who use the trail are enthusiastic about this stuff."

The Vernon program is modeled after the national "Adopt-a-High-way" program, where local organizations volunteer to clean-up stretches of highways.

In reaching its decision to award the grant to the Vernon program, Linn Syz of the Fund said officials were impressed with the way local officials used the national highway model and adapted it to the local trail system.

"Maintenance of a trail is always tough," Syz said. "It brings in new people who might not ordinarily be involved."

Saying this is the first time she has seen such a program used for trail maintenance, Syz said she would recommend it to other organizations throughout New England.

"We're always learning from our grantees," Syz said. "We refer one group to another."

For the past 10 years, the New England Grassroots Environment Fund has given grants to local organizations that back environmental initiatives, Syz said.

The organization provides small grants of up to $2,500 to fuel local activism, and provides roughly $250,000 in grants each year to organiztions throughout New England. For more information on fuel local the Adopt-a-Trail program, 872-6061.