By Doug Merrill
Improvements to the LaPlatte Nature Park over the next few months will help enhance access to a beautiful area of Shelburne, while also keeping alive the memory of a child who passed away in infancy. Thanks to the Holland family’s establishment of a fund to memorialize their son, Hudson, Shelburne Falls and a large portion of the river below it will be accessible to residents who are looking for a place to take a walk, experience nature, or simply enjoy a peaceful vista.In 2010, Tucker and Michelle Holland approached the town of Shelburne with an offer to help. Tucker and Michelle’s first child, Hudson, died shortly after his birth in 2005. Following his passing, the Holland’s established a fund in Hudson’s memory with a mission to promote family togetherness. They had no firm plans for the funds at the time yet recognized that their many friends and family wanted to help remember Hudson and that an opportunity to benefit the community would present itself in the future.
Between the contributions amassed and a generous grant made possible by Tucker’s father through the Hudson-Webber Foundation, they were able to offer $75,000 that could be applied toward a project that the town was trying to complete. They were presented with three options and chose the LaPlatte Nature Park path and Shelburne Falls Overlook.
Tucker explained that when they drove Hudson home from the hospital in Burlington, it was an exceptionally nice day and they took the ‘long way’ home, coming down Spear Street and crossing the LaPlatte River on Falls Road. When this project was suggested, its location brought back the beautiful trip that they shared with Hudson, and they realized that the ‘right’ project had found them.
Consideration of the path started several years ago when the Shelburnewood development was being planned. The paths committee was asked to develop a walking trail along the LaPlatte, with the eventual goal of a path linking Route 7 to Falls Road following the banks of the river. Shelburnewood did not get built, but the idea of the path persevered and two grants were secured to help fund the construction of a path from the shopping center parking lot to Falls Road, about two thirds of the original distance. The first grant was a VTRANS grant of $10,000 and was used to hire the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps to build the Northern end of the path that leads to the shopping center parking lot. This was completed in August of 2011. The second grant is a $20,000 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to construct the remainder of this trail. This work is planned for this fall. The work advanced further when Chris Major completed a bridge along the route as his Eagle Scout project in September of 2011.
Most of 2011 and the early part of this year were spent on scoping and planning the project. The town needed to secure easements from neighboring landowners, most notably Tim Loucks and Lisa Myers. Tim and Lisa believed that the project would be a great asset to the town, yet wanted some input on its execution since the overlook will be built adjacent to their driveway and the path will run directly along their property line. By the spring of 2012, Town Manager Paul Bohne and his staff were able to work with all parties to develop a solution that pleased everyone.
Local landscape architect Kate Lalley designed the overlook. It will be built of local stone along a natural outcropping. She has been working with Charlie Proutt of Horsford’s Nursery who will oversee construction of the site. An appropriate element in memory of Hudson will be incorporated into the design. Construction is planned to begin in September, with a fall completion date.
The total project budget is $137,000 for the trail, the overlook, signage, and other improvements of which $18,700 has been expended, leaving about $118,000 to complete construction. Between the Holland’s work and the available grant funds, $105,000 has been earmarked. The remaining $32,000 worth of work will need to be paid for with donations, or with volunteer efforts to complete the trail network. If you have an organization that would like to volunteer time and materials toward the trail building effort, please contact the town Pedestrian and Bike Path Committee. If you would like to make a contribution toward the funding of the project, you may send it to either:
Hudson Holland IV Memorial Fund
Town of Shelburne
PO Box 88
5420 Shelburne Road
Shelburne, VT 05482
(Note that checks need to be made out to the Town of Shelburne, denoting the fund in the memo line.)
Hudson Holland IV Memorial Fund
Vermont Community Foundation
Three Court Street
PO Box 30
Middlebury, VT 05753
(Note that checks need to be made out to the Vermont Community Foundation, denoting the fund in the memo line.)
Where is the center of Shelburne? Most locals would say that it lies at the intersection of Harbor Road and Route 7. Some might argue that it is the Parade green, which links our municipal buildings, several churches, and our major shopping center. Yet as recently as 100 years ago, ‘Shelburne Falls’ would have been a likely contender. Shelburne Falls? Shelburne Falls refers to the area along the LaPlatte River beginning just under the Falls Road Bridge and extending for a quarter mile downstream. Few residents have heard of Shelburne Falls, and even fewer of us have visited it.
Through the efforts of our town, the paths and natural resources committees, residents, and friends, Shelburne Falls will once again be integrated into the fabric of our town. Shelburne Falls is where the LaPlatte River drops dozens of feet over rock ledges in a narrow valley on its way to Lake Champlain. While it is every bit as scenic as it sounds, centuries ago it was viewed with a more practical eye, as the source of power for growing industries. Ira Allen established both saw and grist mills here in the late 1780s. Several factories and additional mills were built along the riverbanks throughout the 1800s to take advantage of the waterpower that was easily available. Very little evidence of this prosperous period survives today. Anchor bolts can be found in the rock, grindstones have been found in the streambed, and the remains of a dam are visible if you look hard enough.