Champlain Area Trails Executive Director Chris Maron clears a log from the trail as trail-crew volunteer Bill Bryant looks on.
WESTPORT — An abandoned stone quarry became part of the Champlain Area Trails system on Sunday.
A group of volunteers met CATS executive director Chris Maron in the former Church of Latter-Day Saints parking lot on Rt. 9N in Westport to forge a path through hardwood forests and open meadows.
Armed with hand saws, rakes and loppers, crew members snipped shrubbery and relocated downed tree limbs as they made their way toward a small, scenic clearing overlooking the quarry.
By noon, their route was no longer a series of pink ribbons snaking through the woods—the hidden quarry trail had become a reality.
To date, CATS has 29 trails listed on its website, making the newest addition the 30th on their ever-expandng list.
Although one of the goals of creating the trail system is to give people in the Champlain Valley access to nature, Maron hopes it isn’t the only outcome.
The non-profit organization’s mission is also to improve the economy of the region by connecting its many small towns, enabling people to travel between them via wilderness paths.
“We normally approach landowners and try to make arrangements to put a trail through their property,” Maron said. “This time it was unusual because the landowner contacted us.”
This isn’t the first time CATS has been contacted, though.
Recently, officials from Moriah and Lewis have also expressed interest in recruiting CATS to help them create trails in their towns.
Maron said that the organization has never had trouble attracting volunteers since its inception in 2009, either.
“Sometimes only a few people turn out, and other times we’ve had 30 to 40 people show up,” Maron said.
Carving a trail through the woods isn’t for everyone, and everyone gets involved for different reasons.
When CATS recently completed the Cheney Mountain trail in Moriah, Bill Bryant decided it was time to lace up his boots and help out.
“What really stood out to me on the Cheney trail is the overlook,” Bryant said. “I’m currently managing some family woodlands and I’m trying to get an understanding on how trails are designed.”
Bryant pointed out that Maron would often stop as the trail was being cleared and instruct the workers to alter the course to include a scenic feature.
Besides the opportunity to learn, Bryant also liked the fact that he’s contributing to the region.
“There’s a lack of hiking trails in the Champlain Valley, and people need variety,” Bryant said. “Not everyone has the ability to hike the bigger mountains.”
Elaine Miller, a member of the CATS trail committe, agreed with Bryant, and said that she sees the trails as an investment in the communities they pass through.
She also likes the challenge and the camaraderie that come with working in the woods.
“In the beginning it can feel like a forced march, but when the trail is finished everyone feels that same sense of accomplishment,” Miller said.
Miller has helped during the planning of some of the CATS trails, and said the organization always puts the integrity of the ecosystem first by avoiding wildlife habitat and old-growth forests.
“We do our best to prune responsibly and tread gracefully,” Miller said.
CATS holds volunteer trail days the third Saturday of every month. For more information on the organization, or to volunteer, visit champlainareatrails.com