River Overlook Project Creates Community Participation in Richford, Vermont

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By Walter Opuszynski
Trail Director

 

 

This year, the town of Richford, Vermont has the potential to see multiple recreation-based projects come to fruition after countless hours of community effort. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail has been proud to play a part in these efforts through our Trail Town initiative.

NFCT’s Stewardship Crew poses with Tim Green, owner of Grey Gables Mansion, at the Richford River Fest.

In 2012, Richford was designated an official NFCT Trail Town. You may say, “Aren’t all 45 towns the trail goes through considered Trail Towns?” Great question. The difference is that once a town is in our Trail Town Program, our staff works to support local efforts to help the community realize its recreation trail potential. It has been amazing for me to watch initiatives grow in Richford during the past 4 years.

Through our Richford Trail Town work, we have been able to involve various community groups including town managers and the highway department, the conservation commission, the high school and local businesses. The determination and hard work of local leaders is creating a transformation: Richford is becoming a  location where people from near and far can visit to access a variety of recreational adventures.

An excavator removes an old housing structure at the site of the Overlook.
An excavator removes an old housing structure at the site of the Overlook.

One project that exemplifies the grass-roots community initiative aimed at improving the town is the Overlook Project. Led by the Richford Economic Advancement Corporation (REAC), the group took possession of a run-down housing structure on Main Street and are now in the process of turning it into a community green space. Once completed the location will act as a recreational hub tying together a river vista on Main Street with the soon to be Rail Trail Extension Trail and an NFCT river access ramp.

Members of REAC stand proud at site of the Overlook.
Members of REAC stand proud at site of the Overlook.

When we first started working with Richford four years ago the Overlook was just a concept. As with most bigger projects a number of hurdles were encountered along the way. Finally last summer ground was broken and, by the end of autumn, a vista was established as well as a universally accessible trail leading down to the location where the Rail Trail Extension Trail and river access ramp will be installed.

Students from Richford High School stand at the spot where an interpretive panel will be installed containing text that they developed.
Students from Richford High School stand at the spot where an interpretive panel will be installed containing text that they developed.

Breaking ground on the Overlook has felt like the first domino in a long line. The progress that has been made by REAC thus far got the Trail Town Committee thinking, “How can we get our youth involved in this as well?” With a grant from the Champlain Valley Heritage Partnership and the National Park Service, NFCT secured funding that has supported the development of an interpretive panel to be installed in Richford. We have used this funding to empower Richford High School students to develop the text and imagery that will go on the panel.

This school year students have developed text and imagery describing six different recreational adventures you can access from Richford. The adventures range from cross-country skiing, to snowmobiling, to bicycling, to – you guessed it – paddling. All of this has led to a new tagline being developed: “Richford: Start Your Adventure Here!”

The proposed kiosk design for the Overlook.
The proposed kiosk design for the Overlook.

A good opportunity to visit Richford this summer is to participate in the Missisquoi Paddle-Pedal Race on June 25, 2016 in Davis Park. The race is a fun loop combining a 6 mile paddle on the Missisquoi River with a 5 mile bicycle ride back on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail. The event  purposefully coincides with Richford’s River Fest with good food and activities for the whole family! Find out more information on NFCT’s calendar in the coming months.

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