The Essex High School cross country team will resume hosting home meets this fall — something that has not happened since 1994. Since that time, the EHS Cross Country team has hosted its annual Invitational at Catamount Recreation Center in Williston. With its majestic views and challenging terrain, Catamount is a spectacular setting for a cross country meet, but it was time to bring the Essex Invitational back to Essex.
Nestled behind the soccer fields in the Tree Farm Recreational Facility, there lies a trail. During the winter, the trail is used as a VAST trail, with snowmobiles cruising through the area. In the summer, the trail becomes a jungle of briars and weeds as tall as the eye. It seemed like the perfect place to create a trail that could be used for all four seasons. EHS cross country coach Eric Langevin was up to the complicated task of creating such a trail.
Seven years ago, the state of Vermont owned the Tree Farm land and was in the beginning stages of selling the land to the Town and Village, since the town line ran down the center of the land. State representatives were not able to commit to a project, since they were in the process of selling the land. Local officials could not approve a project yet as the land was not yet theirs. So Langevin waited. Five years later, the transfer of land to the Town of Essex and the Village of Essex Junction was complete. The next two years saw Langevin creating a plan, obtaining the necessary permits and soliciting donations. Construction on the trail began in earnest in the fall of 2013.
The construction on the trail required assistance from many different entities and was led by the Center for Technology in Essex. During the 2013-2014 school year, the CTE Natural Resources Program installed six culverts, filled ruts, cleaned out ditches and smoothed out the trail. Led by instructors David Cousino and Tyler Siddens, the students worked daily on the trail, while learning about the equipment and proper installation processes. Fellow CTE instructor Justin Sorenson, a licensed engineer with the state of Vermont, provided much needed engineering assistance. Steven Maloney, an Essex cross country athlete and Boy Scout, cleaned up a large section of the trail as his Eagle Scout project. Brush was cleared out and wood chips were laid down, creating a beautiful wide swath perfect for running. Behind the scenes, Langevin was soliciting donations of materials and completing the requirements of the zoning permits for both the Town and the Village. He was involving students in the process, teaching them about designing a course and considerations that needed to be made involving the community. All the while, he was also arranging logistics for the Invitational to be moved to a new venue.
Construction is now in the end stages with just a little maintenance work left to do. The end product is a wide, smooth, dry running trail that can be used not only as the new Essex Cross Country Invitational home course, but also is open to the community as a community running or walking trail. The trail is located just behind the parking lot with several access points. The trail begins at the north end of Old Colchester road, just past the railroad tracks and construction site. It is approximately one mile long and ends in the Tree Farm facility behind the cemetery.
On September 6, the Essex High School Cross Country Invitational will be returning to Essex. Kicking off the event will be a Citizen’s Run, which is open to the public at 8:30 a.m., followed by high school races beginning at 10:30 a.m. The event is open to the public. Come on out and support the local athletes on their new home course.— Staff Reports