So, with a few speeches and a quick snip of a ribbon by various officials from both towns, the Valley Trail officially opened. When that ribbon hit the ground, it marked the end of more than a quarter-century of effort by scores of dedicated volunteers and officials to make the Valley Trail become a reality.
The story of the Valley Trail is one that has more twists and turns and ups and downs than the trail itself. The trail started out with a simple premise in the mid-1980s: create a recreation path that would connect Wilmington and Dover. During the next three decades there were numerous attempts by various groups and committees to find a route, secure funding, and make the trail a reality. The details of that process would take more space than available here in this column, and for our readers’ sake we’ll omit those details. But for those who have toiled for so long to make the trail reality, it is exactly that circuitous route which must have made Saturday’s ceremony so satisfying. Congratulations to all who spent so much time and effort, most of it done by volunteers, to make the trail a reality.
For those who enjoy getting outdoors, the real fun begins now. The fact that there is now a connected trail from Wilmington Village to Haystack and the Hermitage, and then on to West Dover and Mount Snow, complete with signage and parking areas, is something everyone should appreciate. It is another thread that ties our disparate communities together, and further solidifies the spirit of cooperation the two towns and various groups have developed.
But wait, there’s more. The Valley Trail offers a connection to not just the resorts and the two towns, but to a larger outdoor trail network. There are a number of side trails that spur off the main route, and connectors to even more trails in the area are planned. When those connections become reality, the great promise of the Valley Trail as both a recreational and economic benefit to the valley will be that much closer to a reality.
Wait a minute, did we say economic benefit to the valley? Indeed we did. There is no doubt the trail will have a long-term economic benefit to to the region, as well as the obvious outdoor appeal. Recreation trails, especially those that are marked and easily accessible like the Valley Trail, have proven to have an economic impact to the communities that host them. After all, that was one of the hopes of the original plan to develop the trail, and one that should become a reality now that the trail has been developed. The trail should be a draw both for day-trippers in the area who are looking for something new to explore, and for tourists who are looking for a resort area that offers easy access to trail networks and nature. We certainly hope local businesses will include the Valley Trail in their marketing efforts whenever possible.
Also, community groups looking for fundraising activities should look toward events on the Valley Trail. We can envision walks, biking, or trail runs as a means to raise funds for local nonprofits and charities. The great thing about using the trail for activities is that the core infrastructure is now in place in terms of signage and parking areas. It will just take some creative folks to come up with the ideas to use what is now there. We have no doubt there are others who are thinking along the same lines as this, and perhaps it won’t be long until the “Great Valley Trail Ramble” or some such event is announced.
It should be pretty obvious that we’re excited by the prospects a simple trail through the woods can offer. We hope there are many others in the valley and beyond who feel the same way.
The Valley Trail, after all, belongs to us all, local and visitor alike. That, more than anything, is the promise fulfilled by Saturday’s ceremony and the efforts that went into making the trail a reality.