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West Rutland Boardwalk:The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Comes to Town  

By Kim J. Gifford Photos Tim Sink

“When you walk on this boardwalk, it’s so spectacular. You don’t want to say anything. It’s so quiet, very quiet, with dappled sunlight coming in. The spring will bring birds and ferns and all kinds of stuff,” said Ralph Nimtz, a member of the Rutland County Audubon Board. He, along with Nate Dansereau, another board member, was responsible for dreaming up the whole project, said Rutland County Audubon Society President Kathleen Guinness.

The project in question is the creation of a trail and boardwalk through a cedar swamp and pine island off Whipple Hollow Road. At the end of 2018, the Rutland County Audubon Society and the Town of West Rutland collaborated on a grant with the Recreational Trails Program. The grant was for $42,000 and was administered by the State of Vermont, although it is part of a national program, explained Guinness.

The Audubon Society received the money in 2019 as part of Phase 2 in constructing a three-part trail. Unfortunately, they were not able to build it, then 2020 came with Covid-19 and the project had to be further postponed, but in 2021 they were able to hire the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps to build the boardwalk for them. They finished at the end of August in 2021.

The purpose of the project, said Guinness, was to get Rutland County Audubon’s bird monitoring off Whipple Hollow Road. Nimtz explained that Whipple Hollow “is paved, curvy, and hilly. You get a dozen people gawking at something up I the trees and the pickups and cars seem to be going faster than the speed limit. We started thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to get off this stretch of asphalt?”

The idea for the project came from Nimtz eyeing “the ridge down by the swamp” and thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice to get down there and put a bench and look out over the marsh?” he said. From there the project just evolved. Nimtz also had some experience spearheading the Stone Meadow Trail in Wallingford, Vermont.

In addition to getting people off Whipple Hollow Road, Guinness also noted that the boardwalk has provided some new habitat to spot birds. She lists some of the varieties that have already been seen. Among the different birds that have been seen are the red-breasted nuthatch, the pileated woodpecker, and the ruffed grouse. Nimtz also added that there are Winter wrens and “all kinds of nuthatches and warblers as well as the Northern water thrush.”

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps came in at the end of June and spent five weeks working on the trail. “They camped there, no outhouse, no showers. They had to use the West Rutland showers. It was really hot and humid this summer and there were so many mosquitos, but they did it in five weeks,” said Guinness. Merrill Shoes even sponsored some of the work.

“We had 900 feet of boardwalk and $10,000 worth of lumber,” said Nimtz. “We did Phase 1, which was across the meadow before the boardwalk. We did the bridge, and they marked the trail. They put that bench in that I wanted. They got us off to a good start and then we had a year off. We got the $42,000 grant, and started to work,” said Nimtz. He did some preliminary sketches and got a local sawmill to cut some black locust trees for the posts that stay in the ground. “You can’t use pressure-treated wood in an area like that. We cut the decking out of hemlock; it has a pretty good resistance and is not in contact with the water,” he said. Harold Book of West Haven sold the reasonably priced lumber for the project.

In addition to the boardwalk, they also needed to build a parking area and a kiosk. Both Guinness and Nimtz praised the town of West Rutland as well as Town Manager Mary Anne Goulette for all they have contributed. “Mary Anne actually submitted the grant for us, and her crew has been wonderful to work with. They built the parking lot, and we had the kiosk put up. They also do the mowing of the meadow trail that adjoins the boardwalk trail,” said Guinness.

“They gave us the support of their crews and trucks, machinery to make a parking lot and to cut up some of the bigger logs. They have been terrific,” confirmed Nimtz.

The Stafford Technical Center in Rutland construction students actually built the kiosk, which was finished in September 2021. A volunteer from Rutland County Audubon Society has been working on the map and signs. Money from the Audubon Wetlands Fund, administered by Audubon Vermont, paid for the kiosk.

Guinness praises the trail. “It’s a very pleasant walk. I took nine of my relatives there for Columbus Day weekend. They ranged in age from 72 to six months, including a two-year-old who loved it for the running. They all enjoyed it. We meet people on the trail all the time. They are kind of enthralled. Where did this come from?”

“I run into people who are thrilled to be down there. A lot of West Rutland people who couldn’t wade through there before. It was an effort, so it’s well appreciated,” said Nimtz.

“It is quite a nice trail. If you walk the trail, it is about three-quarters of a mile long. You can walk the trail and loop back around to the parking lot,” Guinness concluded. “The boardwalk is wonderful. It’s a really smooth, even boardwalk. It is sort of like walking through wonderland while walking through there,” concluded Guinness.

Kim J. Gifford is a writer, teacher and artist. She splits her time between her home in Bethel, VT where she lives with her pugs Alfie and Amore, and Mechanicsburg, PA where she is attending ministry school. To view her work, visit

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