A dream deferred for a century will finally come true on Friday. That's when the Green Mountain Club will cut the ribbon on the Winooski Valley Long Trail Footbridge, and building a new crossing over the Winooski River in Bolton has been something the Club has wanted to do for over 100 years.
Back in 1913, the legislature approved $500 for this project, but it didn't get built for a variety of reasons, according to Green Mountain Club executive director Mike DeBonis. "At that time that was a large amount of money, but subsequent trail rerouting and other difficulties prevented the building of the bridge," DeBonis said. "At that time the trail was still pretty new and the club was still new. They started in 1910. They had this vision for the bridge, but just weren't able to pull it together at that time. "
There's a lot of infrastructure in the Winooski River valley: the river, railroad tracks, the interstate highway and town roads, which made it difficult to find a place to relocate the trail and permanently protect it, so the project stayed in limbo.
About 20 years ago, the Long Trail trail was moved off of Robbins Mountain, and the club at that time decided to find a permanent location for the trail, which currently involves 3 or more miles of road walking. The goal became to move the trail back into the mountains, leading to a long process of land acquisition lead by volunteers and club staff.
DeBonis said miles of trail was scouted to find the right properties and work with landowners and the state of Vermont to find the funds to buy or conserve properties and establish easements. That process took decades, and it was followed by trail cutting and finally, bridge construction.
The 224-foot clear-span steel cable suspension bridge cost $1.5 million, funded by volunteers, the state of Vermont and other partners. The total project, including land acquisition, trail building and permitting cost $2.5 million.
"If you think about the Long Trail, 270 plus miles crossing the high peaks of the state, running the center of the state from the Canadian border to Massachusetts, really this area in the Winooski Valley was the missing link of the Long Trail, connecting Camel's Hump to Mount Mansfield," DeBonis said. "And finally being able to permanently protect the corridor and have a safe crossing of the Winooski River is a vision, a dream that took us 100 years, and will hopefully allow us to have the trail available for everyone to enjoy for the next 100 years."