Weathersfield: connecting to other nearby natural resources and improving access
Background and Overview
Weathersfield (population 2794) has a 310-acre forest Town Forest that borders I-91 and Mt Ascutney State Park. There is currently no public road access to the forest. As a result, the forest sees minimal use. There is an old logging road network, the Futures trail, and former private and VAST trails on the parcel, but the town has not constructed any new trails or other infrastructure since aquiring the land in 2010. Recently, the town obtained access for public parking and is now planning for an increase in users with the improved access. The forest is part of the town's economic development plan, which includes a regional plan to create trail connections between area villages, mountains, and recreation areas.
The Conservation Commission plays the primary role in forest management, with collaboration from the Upper Valley Land Trust. There is no current forest management plan.
Needs & Assessment
The following issues and needs were identified through the public engagement process to be addressed in this planning process.
1. Concerns about future use of ATVs in the forest
2. Overlap with private events that are happening elsewhere in town
3. Lack of parking and access to the parcel
4. Handicap accessibility
5. Invasive species along the powerline cut
6. Horse trailer parking
7. Erosion concerns on existing logging roads
8. Expressed interest in regional trail connectivity (trail around Mt Ascutney) and many nearby trail systems
9. Cabin on the property
10. Undeveloped forest with no infrastructure
11. Deer wintering yards on the forest
The word trees below demonstrate what the community answered when they were asked what word or phrase best describes their existing or desired future experience with the town forest – the size of the word corresponds to the number of times it appeared in the responses.
<input vision trees>
As a result of the planning process, the town generated a robust action plan matrix. From it, the planning commission selected several steps that seemed to achieve the greatest result with a manageable amount of effort. Those steps include: <each list item will link to the one-pager>
Parking lot and access trail
Existing trail review and redesign
Trail markers and signage
Educational programs and partnerships
Trail network connectivity
Trail maps and online presence
Ideas Worth Sharing
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