Wallis: The Barnes Camp Boardwalk

Nov 3, 2017

The Boardwalk at Barnes Camp is now open for Vermonters and visitors alike. The five-foot-wide walkway is just below the gate that closes Smugglers Notch for winter, on the Stowe side. It’s about 600 feet long, is a universally accessible portion of the Long Trail and offers stunning, and previously unavailable views of the Notch.

The walkway is constructed on helical piers - pretty much large screwdrivers - over a wetland and was designed and built with attention to the sensitive environment of Smugglers Notch. The piers were installed by drilling, rather than excavating soil. And during construction, an excavator with hydraulic attachment was moved about on cedar mats so it wouldn’t touch the wetland. Sawdust was bagged up and carried out by hand.

The elevated boardwalk allows wildlife to move through the wetland and accommodates natural water level variations. This attribute proved key when the beavers moved in, changing water courses and adding a beautiful pond right at the end of the walkway. They seemed to want to do their part for this hugely collaborative project.

The Boardwalk was possible due to a direct earmark secured by then Congressman Bernie Sanders and the remaining funds were provided by the VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Green Mountain Club, Spruce Peak Resort Association, Lamoille County Planning Commission, and Lamoille Economic Development Corp.

Josh Ryan, whose company built the project, started his career twenty years ago and just down the road at the old Vermont ski dorm working with the Youth Conservation Corps. For him, this trail – which allows wheelchair users and through hikers alike to enjoy the Notch - is a legacy project. Fittingly, his daughter played the fiddle at the opening event.

The Long Trail relocation to connect with the Boardwalk will be complete next spring, and takes hikers into the woods and no longer down the side of Route 108 next to the traffic. Actually, a big part of the point of a Scenic highway is to get out of the car and away from the road.

The Boardwalk is located next to the historic Barnes Camp visitor center – which was built in 1927 and played a key role in creating Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy. Before ski lodges and resorts, the Camp provided food and shelter for hikers and skiers braving the Mountain slopes. Now, Green Mountain Club volunteers help show visitors the way into the woods on summer weekends.