The 40 small communities along the Connecticut River in New Hampshire and Vermont that make up the Upper Valley are filled with trails perfect for hiking, running, skiing, snowshoeing, and biking. Lebanon alone offers more than 10 trail networks that residents can easily access locally—and are exactly the reason that the Upper Valley Trails Alliance exists.
Founded in Norwich, in 1999, the organization is dedicated to promoting active lifestyles through year-round trail use, while spearheading local trail groups and advocates. To do so, the alliance works with dozens of local trail committees, conservation committees, personal landowners and land trusts to build, develop, and maintain four-season trails.
“Embracing recreation year round is what our organization encourages,” says Russell Hirschler, executive director for alliance. “We are the only group in the area that does what we do. Our trail projects are individual to each town and each community’s needs.”
In addition to building and maintaining trails, the alliance has worked hard to become a trails resource and to provide an array of activities and programs that encourage people to get off the couch and live a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Their Upper Valley Trail Finder , a comprehensive database of all the trails in the Upper Valley, makes it simple to find easily accessible trails for all types of activities and skill levels.
In partnership with the Lake Morey Resort, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance also helps maintain a four-mile ice skating loop trail on Lake Morey, in Fairlee during the winter months. Their most recent project, the Mascoma Gateway, will add an additional four miles onto the Northern Rail Trail in Lebanon, connecting Lebanon with West Lebanon, where many businesses reside.
“Sixty-three percent of Lebanon residents live within one mile of the trail, and 53 percent are within a half mile,” Hirschler says. “This new trail will be a great recreation and transportation corridor.”
The organization also runs a variety of regional programs to provide healthy exercise options and fun recreational activities to communities in the Upper Valley. One of its seven programs includes the Prescription Walking Program, which provides people, those particularly at risk of health problems that may be alleviated through regular physical activity, information and motivation on how to use trails for exercise. Passport to Winter Fun, meanwhile, is designed to encourage children and their families to remain physically fit during New England’s long winter season, and skills workshops provide opportunities to introduce participants to active lifestyle skills.