When I first moved to Waitsfield, I was sad to see that the center of town had no sidewalk. I live less than half a mile from the coffee shop and the post office, but to get there, I had to traverse a sharply curved road with drainage ditches on either side, and Subarus slamming on the brakes as they careened around the curve fifteen miles over the speed limit and saw my small, pedestrian self.
Walking anywhere in Waitsfield wasn’t the convenient, pleasant experience I was used to—until I discovered the trails. Like veins, they extended from the heart of the neighborhood in almost every which way, meandering through meadows and following rivers, some of them ending in the loud generator buzz behind the grocery store, some of them ending at the edge of someone’s quiet back yard, and some of them ending abruptly in the middle of no place at all.
For as long as residents can remember, Waitsfield has been trying to construct a sidewalk through the center of town, but perhaps the reason the project has been perpetually delayed is because the town has put so much time and money towards building the Mad River Path network instead. Its trails aren’t fully developed, and they don’t all connect as they someday should, but they take me where I want to go.
It takes me ten more minutes to walk to my office by trail rather than taking the road, and sometimes my shoes get muddy, but I wouldn’t trade my foot-wide path of packed-down dirt for any three-foot-wide concrete sidewalk Waitsfield might someday install. I’d much rather walk through a meadow—or even through someone else’s backyard—if it means I get to smell less engine exhaust and see more green things.