BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 26 - The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail has won a land use permit that will allow construction to begin on 44 miles of the trail across scenic stretches of northern Vermont.
"This is exciting news," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. "The trail across some of the most beautiful terrain in Vermont will be a fantastic recreational asset while strengthening Vermont's economy."
Sanders secured a $5.2 million grant for the trail in 2005, but the project has been on hold during an environmental review process.
"In the short term, construction of the trail will create badly-needed jobs in a part of our state hit hard by this terrible recession," the senator said. "Once built, the trail will be a huge attraction for tourists who come to Vermont in the winter to snowmobile or ski, or in the summer to bike and hike. These tourists will stay in our hotels and inns, eat in local restaurants, visit other Vermont attractions and buy Vermont products."
The long-awaited permit clears the way for work on the first of three phases of construction on what eventually will be a 93-mile trail from Swanton to St. Johnsbury along the former Lamoille Valley Railroad.
Phase 1 will include work on stretches of trail from St. Johnsbury to Danville, a leg linking Morristown, Hyde Park, Johnson and Cambridge, and a section of trail from Sheldon through Highgate and on to Swanton.
The railway served as a vital east-west transportation corridor from 1877 until it closed in 1994. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers in 2003 won state approval to convert the railway into a four-season recreational trail.
When completed, the longest rail trail in New England will offer services for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and others.
The Northern Border Regional Commission earlier this month awarded a $249,982 grant for the trail.