Already known for its ample outdoor recreation opportunities, Colchester has another park available for residents and visitors alike to use year-round.
Members from the Colchester Parks & Recreation Department, the recreation advisory board and the selectboard participated in a short ribbon-cutting ceremony last Tuesday before taking a celebratory walk around the path at the new Village Park on Main Street, which opened in June.
The mile-long path is made of crushed stone and is flat and suitable for walking and biking. If the right kind of snow falls this winter, the parks & recreation department will consider grooming the trails for cross-country skiing, department director Glen Cuttitta said.
The path is situated on a 66-acre plot of land the town purchased back in 2005 and is just the first implementation of the park’s larger master plan.
“A lot of people identified in different surveys that they feel like walking trails and paths have been the No. 1 priority that they’d like to see in the community,” Cuttitta said. “So that’s why we identified that trail as being the first phase that we would jump into.”
The master plan was created back in 2006 and will need some updating, he added, but it envisions more trails, fields and other amenities for visitors. As more funding comes in from recreation impact fees charged on new development, the town plans on expanding the Village Park.
“As a board, we’re excited to have a new major park in the village. It’s been a long time coming,” said Adriane Martin, chairwoman of the Colchester Recreation Advisory Board.
And a long time coming, it has been.
While the first plans for the park were created back in 2006, the town could not even think about construction until Act 250 permitting was completed. That process took almost 10 years, selectboard chairwoman Nadine Scibek said.
Act 250 is state permitting system through the Vt. Agency of Natural Resources that is required for projects spanning more than 10 acres of land. The process considers impacts of the project on an area’s wildlife habitat, air and water quality, soil systems, historical significance, among other factors.
Part of the reason the Village Park’s permitting process took so long to complete was due to the fact that some archaeological artifacts were found on the property by researchers at the University of Maine who were in charge of the dig, Cuttitta said.
None of the artifacts were considered significant by the researchers, but three separate archaeological digs were required, which took four years to complete, he added.
Nonetheless, board members and town employees were all excited for the park to be open.
Martin said she was excited to use the park with her husband and one-and-a-half-year-old son who loves “walks and dirt and rocks and grass,” she said, and has enthusiastically told her friends who are new to the area to start using it.
“It really ties into the slogan of optimizing the experience of living, which is the Colchester Parks & Recreation slogan, and because this park is available to provide opportunities to people of all ages and abilities,” Martin said. “It’s going to be part of people’s lives for years to come.”