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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Section of Mill Brook Trail closed due to damaged bridge



By Erin Post

A clay slide has prompted the Mad River Path Association to close a section of the Mill Brook Trail for the winter.

Carol Thompson, path association director, said a small bridge was damaged, making about one mile of the trail from Tucker Hill Road to Tucker Hill Inn unsafe for hiking and skiing.

The wooden bridge, known as a puncheon, allowed trail-goers to cross a section of wet and uneven ground strewn with rocks and boulders. Although some planks remain in place, others have been uplifted or pushed down a hill sloping away from Tucker Hill Road.

"I had heard about it [the damaged puncheon] through the grapevine," Thompson said, prompting her to walk the section of trail herself a few weeks ago.

As a result of the damaged bridge, signs that say "Trail Closed, Use at Your Own Risk" have been posted at either end of the affected section, Thompson said. With snow now covering the ground, it could be risky to have unknowing skiers or snowshoers head into the woods only to find the trail in rough condition.

Thompson said it's hard to say exactly what caused the clay slide or even when it happened but noted that the area is prone to such problems.

"It's just this huge clay bank up there that is very slippery and wet," she said.

The Path Association is already beginning to brainstorm ideas to make the bridge work. Possibilities include hitching a new puncheon to trees, allowing it to move if a slide occurs again, or constructing the bridge in pieces so that the whole structure isn't destroyed in case of a slide.

Willing workers may be in the wings as well. Thompson said Green Mountain Valley School students who mountain bike in the area have expressed an interest in "adopting" the trail and may be enlisted to construct a new bridge.

"It's number one on our list for what we're going to do next spring," she said.


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