October 15, 2018, Newport City – The City of Newport, the Vermont Land Trust, multiple community partners, downtown businesses and individual donors have raised more than $1.2 million for a recreation trail. The trail will result in a seven-mile, car-free waterfront recreation path that connects downtown Newport to the Canadian border and beyond.
The Waterfront Recreational Path and Lake Access Project began with the development of a walking path and dock along the downtown Newport Waterfront Plaza, which opened in spring 2018. This new path linked to the existing path along Newport’s downtown boardwalk, forming a beautiful crescent of lakefront recreational land on Lake Memphremagog’s south shore.
The goal is to expand recreational activities along the lakefront by linking segments of existing trails along the waterfront and constructing some new trails. This ambitious project will connect downtown to the existing Beebe Spur Rail trail, which leads to the Canadian border and a network of trails in Canada.
With $1.2 million raised for the next phase, the Vermont Land Trust will begin to permit and then construct a connection between Prouty Beach and Bluffside Farm.
In late December 2015, the land trust purchased Bluffside Farm, which had been owned by one family since 1906. The farm has nearly a mile of lakeside frontage; more than half of the frontage is on Scott’s Cove, directly across from Newport City’s Prouty Beach. Pilings are still present from a bridge that formerly connected the two properties. The Vermont Land Trust will build a new bridge across the cove as part of the trail construction. This will be a stunning new feature that will be a draw for locals and tourists.
“Despite the fact that Newport is nearly surrounded by water, there is surprisingly little public access to the lake,” said Tracy Zschau, conservation director at the Vermont Land Trust. “Through community meetings held by VLT and NVDA in 2016 about Bluffside Farm’s future, as well as the more recent community visit process with the Vermont Council on Rural Development, it was made clear that more access to the lake is on the minds of many as Newport moves on after the disappointments of the failed EB-5 projects.”
Given the future trail’s benefits to the community— including economic development, and health and wellness goals—the Vermont Land Trust has secured several large grants, including $425,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission.
Several large contributions were made by federal and state agencies, foundations, and businesses, including the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, USDA Rural Development, the Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Passumpsic Savings Bank, Community National Bank, North Country Hospital, Jay Peak, and Columbia Forest Products. These past several months, the NEK Collaborative helped bring people together at various points to discuss the vision of the trail.
“This is an ambitious project, being able to raise the money was critical,” explained Tracy. “Early support of over $1 million from federal, state and private funders gave us the confidence that this was possible for Newport. And when it came down to the final $125,000—to have raised that locally, with large and small donations coming from businesses, individuals and families—really demonstrates the broad support for this project.”
“This will be a wonderful new asset for the City that came from a community engagement process,” said Newport City Manager Laura Dolgin. “The trail and access to the lake preserves our cultural roots and provides a path to the future of our recreational economy. I am grateful to all those that helped. Their tenacity helped see this project to fruition. This is an exciting time for the City of Newport because this project ties perfectly into our goals of realizing the City as a vibrant and inviting recreational hub.”