Ski trails expand onto Bluffside Farm

in Newport/News/Outdoors by

NEWPORT — The Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation’s (MSTF) ski trail system has expanded onto Bluffside Farm in Newport City.

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The new trail loop extends from the groomed Beebe Spur Rail Trail, and will be maintained by MSTF thanks to Mike Desmarais of GETSNO Equipment, who donated the use of a snow groomer.

“It is a nice beginner to intermediate terrain, and I think people will really enjoy it,” said MSTF Board member Louise Whipple.

The groomed trail system, including the rail trail and Primeau trails in Derby, is now over 24 miles long.

The public is welcome to use the Bluffside Farm trails, which are made possible by volunteer efforts, contributions from MSTF trail users and many generous landowners.

All are invited to tour MSTF trails for free at an open house on Saturday, December 30 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Parking will be available at 3892 Darling Hill in Newport.

Vermont Land Trust, a non-profit, membership-based land conservation organization, bought the 129-acre Bluffside Farm in late 2015.

Ever since, they have been working with the community to re-imagine the farm through a series of public meetings and tours.

Expanding recreation was a clear priority that came out of these discussions.

“We are so excited about what’s possible at the farm, given its size and location,” said VLT’s Tracy Zschau. “We are really starting to see how we can use the land to connect and expand recreation paths in ways that benefit local users while also drawing visitors to Newport City.”

Vermont Land Trust has joined with the City and Newport City Renaissance Corporation on an ambitious proposal to create a one-mile, multi-use path on the farm that would connect the popular Beebe Spur Rail Trail to the downtown via a bridge between the farm and the Prouty Beach Recreation Area. This is one of several efforts to improve and expand lake access and recreation.

This past fall, Pomerleau Real Estate began work on a new path section along the lake in front of Waterfront Plaza.

“When the connections are complete, there will be a seven-mile waterfront recreation corridor that connects downtown Newport along Lake Memphremagog to the Canadian border and the trails that extend into Canada,” added Tracy.

This winter’s groomed ski trail does not follow the exact path of the future bike trail because there is no way to get to Prouty Beach yet, but it demonstrates what is possible.

“The addition of the Bluffside Farm trails expands the range and diversity of the MSTF experience,” said Rob Long, an MSTF volunteer from Derby. “We’re very excited to see this improvement to our unique blend of forest, field, and lakeshore skiing, now from Newport to the Canadian border.”

A grant of $425,000 for the recreation path came from the Northern Borders Regional Commission in August. VLT is working with several partners to raise the full amount of money needed for the path and bridge, estimated at $1.2 million, through federal, state and private grants by the fall of 2018.

Vermont Land Trust has made the entire farm open for pedestrian use. In the summer months, when the fields are actively farmed and bald eagles are nesting, fewer trails are open.

The small parking area near the Bluffside sugarhouse, at the intersection of Bluff Road and Scott Farm Road, is also being kept open by MSTF for winter-time visitors to the farm.

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