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Retaining Upper Valley’s Trails

September 16, 2013

The Upper Valley’s complex stitch-work of  paths, wood-roads, and trails provides a huge number of opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts to explore their communities. Trail users enjoy these travelways for many reasons – for healthy exercise, athletics, outdoor education, the healing qualities and solace that nature brings, commuting to school or work, visiting shops and various neighborhoods, and to benefit from social attributes afforded by conversing with neighbors and friends.  There are a great many reasons to be out on trails.

The Upper Valley trail network is located on an intertwined mix of private, not-for-profit, town, state and federal landownership. There are a few key steps that you should consider to ensure the network of Upper Valley trails remain intact.

  1. Stay on trails approved for public access. If unsure, confirm permission with a private landowner
  2. Know what trail uses are allowed on a particular trail and respect landowners’ preferences
  3. Volunteer for your local trail organization to help maintain trails or improve the trail network
  4. Keep your local trail advocacy organizations strong by becoming a member and contribute ($) to their valuable work

While you may come across many trails on your travels, not all of them are available for public use. Some landowners’ trails are truly public and available to area residents and visitors alike while others are considered more localized connectors between particular neighborhoods, yet others are access paths for a particular landowners’ use (farm field access, logging road, private hiking path, link to their friend’s house, etc). Knowing which trails you are welcome on will result in continued positive trail experiences for you and users sharing the trail, minimize trail maintenance needs, and reduce the potential for unwanted activities on a private landowner’s property (sometimes resulting in a trail closure).  If you are unsure if a particular trail is open to you or for a particular use, it is always best to speak to the landowner.

The Upper Valley Trails Alliance contacted many landowners and trail managers as we worked over the past five years to develop Trail Finder.  This on-line trail database has helped many trail users locate trails that are available for public use in the Upper Valley.        FYI: The City of Lebanon, Towns, and the Upper Valley Land Trust have some additional public trail information on their websites. We continue to work with trail managers to add to the Trail Finder resource.

Currently some websites that provide trail maps have not necessarily checked to see if a trail is publicly accessible. If a trail user chooses to explore a trail, collect the “path” data with GPS technology, and toss it into a website without confirming with landowners that they are comfortable with public use of their trails, we may start to see more No Trespassing signs cropping up. UVTA is hopeful that we can all do our part to maintain friendly relationships with area “trail” landowners by respecting their property, abiding by trail use decisions, and pitching in to care for these community assets.

Note: If you need help finding out if a particular trail is available for you to explore, start by checking the Trail Finder map, contacting your local Conservation Commission, or speaking directly to a landowner (Towns have property ownership information on file that will help you with landowner contact). If you plan to create or care for a trail, please be sure that the landowner and trail manager is informed of your interests and condones your efforts.

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