Norwich— The Upper Valley trails community is bidding farewell to one of its longtime pillars.
John Taylor, whose instructive guidance spurred the creation and maintenance of wooded trail networks in the area for more than two decades, is stepping down from his post as trail programs director of the Upper Valley Trails Alliance.
Taylor, a Meriden resident, is moving to California’s Bay Area early next month with his wife, Jane, a nursing manager who accepted a job there. Taylor will be succeeded in April by Sean Ogle, currently of North Carolina.
A native of Ontario who once managed a Canadian fish hatchery, it didn’t take long for Taylor to become involved with efforts to preserve resources after moving to the area with his wife in 1994. He spent five years working with the Lake Sunapee Protective Association before joining the Upper Valley Land Trust as that Hanover-based nonprofit’s public access trails coordinator from 2000-06.
Combining naturally artistic trail design skills with a keen grasp of logistics, Taylor helped UVLT’s then-underutilized wooded conservation lands blossom into a network that today features 49 unique trail systems.
Lyme’s Grant Brook and Clay Brook trails, the Mink Brook Nature Preserve network in Hanover and many of the routes on Wright’s Mountain in Bradford, Vt., were a product of Taylor’s expertise, according to UVLT president Jeanie McIntyre.
“When he came to work for us, we (oversaw) 30,000 acres of public land that had easements for public access over several dozen properties,” McIntyre recalled. “We had the right to public access, but not the capacity to initiate it. John came aboard and made an enormous impact. He created a lot of the trails, promoted them and made the whole network real.”
Taylor went on to spearhead countless projects during more than 10 years with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, including major improvements to the popular main trail along Gile Mountain in Norwich.
Hanover’s Greensboro Highlands Trail, the ADA compatible McKnight trail at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee and a path linking Lebanon’s Memorial Pool to the Northern Rail Trail are some of Taylor’s more recent creations.
“There’s an artistic component to trail building,” said Taylor. “When building steps, for example, you want to make sure the flow of the stone is squared and structured like a series of shelves. You also want to make sure you take advantage of what the outdoors have to offer, so you might want to do some cribbing into the sides of hills for exposure to babbling brooks and things of that nature. Of course, any time you’re in a watershed, you also want to be sensitive to wildlife habitat, and you always want to aim at minimizing erosion.”
Taylor’s guidance has meant fewer headaches for municipal workers such as those with Lebanon’s Department of Recreation and Parks. Taylor has assisted with numerous efforts in the city, including the Memorial Pool trail and the Mascoma River Greenway, the latter an envisioned 4-mile nonmotorized pathway connecting Lebanon with West Lebanon along the defunct Boston & Maine railway.
“John’s water bars and drainage techniques were really valuable,” said Lebanon recreation director Paul Coats. “If we had just built it ourselves, it probably would have been a maintenance nightmare.”
One of Taylor’s proudest accomplishments with UVTA was helping to create its Outdoor Odyssey program, which includes the Upper Valley High School Trail Corps. Each summer, students from high schools throughout the region join UVTA staff for trail projects. Recent work has included invasive species removal on Woodstock’s Mount Tom, Mascoma River Greenway rail tie removal and the construction of the Wilderness Trail on Wright’s Mountain.
“The Trail Corps has been a wonderful way to see youth become engaged in various projects and achieve a lot of personal growth,” Taylor said. “By the end of it, most of them are genuinely interested in taking care of trails. It’s the next generation of trail stewards.”
Taylor may appear quiet upon first acquaintance, yet those who stick around soon learn he isn’t shy when it comes to instruction and designating tasks. He also embraces challenges — after a healthy level of consideration.
“He’s very optimistic, has a can-do attitude about things, but he balances that with a lot of practicality,” said Norwich Trails Committee chair Nick Krembs. “If there’s a huge rock that needs to be moved, he’ll look at it from every angle and then say, ‘OK, we can do this.’ ”
Taylor, 58, will miss the small-office environment at UVTA’s Carpenter Street headquarters, where he works closely with executive director Russell Hirschler. The pair also worked together at UVLT in the early 2000s.
“Aside from becoming a very close personal friend, it’s been amazing to watch John in the many ways he’s connected people to the landscape,” said Hirschler. “He’s had a great personality to go with it. He laughs a lot, he’s a kid at heart and he’s a great story teller. He’s been an amazing colleague over the years.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3225.