Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and, thanks to the Friends of Profile Trails, you can travel both. The Friends of Profile Trails (FPT) represent a collective of efforts across the Franconia valley region to spur local trail networks. The group aims to foster healthy lifestyles through biking, hiking, and skiing on terrain suitable for all ages and abilities.
Across the region north of Franconia Notch there exists a series of small, localized trail systems. Franconia’s Fox Hill Park, Bethlehem’s The Rocks Estate, and Littleton’s Parker Mountain represent only a handful of the numerous trails spread throughout the valley. Chris Nicodemus, the President of the Franconia Area Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (FA-NEMBA), sees the dispersed nature of many of the trails as a challenge. “Trails to me are part of an active and healthy community lifestyle,” he states. “We want to have community-based trails, not just pure destination trails.”
A Linked Trail System
Nicodemus points out that many need to drive to specific destinations before riding or hiking on trails. He equates this activity to downhill skiing at a resort, where you visit that specific location for that specific activity. “There’s another model though,” he explains, “where you can ride through town on a linked trail system. That makes it safe and easy to visit a destination or just ride around without having to drive anywhere.”
The FTP combines the stewardship of various groups representing land conservation, recreation, and accessibility within and around these trail systems. The group acts in association with Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), Lafayette Tri-town Recreation, and Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country (ASPNC), and FA-NEMBA. “We brought this group together to increase awareness in the community about the value of trails,” says Nicodemus. “And to educate how trails can contribute to the vitality of a region.”
The formal efforts of trail stewardship originated with FA-NEMBA’s founding in 2015. The club worked with the National Forest Service to develop and maintain trails. And, the club seeks to promote proper etiquette among its members. But the group recognized the appeal of trails beyond the mountain bike community.
“I myself always look at trails from the perspective of a skier,” admits Nicodemus. “And I’ve found all of these other people who enjoy trails, from mushroomers to birders.” FPT became a way to include more people with varying interests in activities on trails.
The Master Plan
The members of Profile Trails have mapped out several projects to increase access to trails in the Franconia region. From a trail connecting Profile High School to the trails of The Rocks Estate to a designated biking path along Route 116, these individual efforts seek to improve access and safety for trail users.
For help with feasibility and trail design on these projects, FPT reached out to Morton Trails. Founded by two-time Olympic athlete John Morton, Morton Trails lends expertise in trail planning, design, and construction. The firm has completed efforts across the country and internationally. “They proposed to put projects in the context of a regional Master Trail Plan,” says Nicodemus. “That way, it shows there is a broad constituency that has an interest in what you’re doing.” This constituency becomes crucial when applying for grants. FPT has now initiated a sub-committee focused on developing and realizing this Master Trail Plan.
Links, Destinations, and Lifestyle
The plan with Morton Trails will provide that broader context for ongoing projects and help stimulate new projects. “It allows us to give extra momentum to these various components,” Nicodemus affirms. “And provides an opportunity to collect bright ideas and vet projects at a professional level.” Morton Trails will also provide professional cartography services to help map out all of the trails as they come to life.
But for the Friends of Profile Trails, the vision goes beyond just the work on the ground. “We’re trying to create a new economic vitality model,” Nicodemus states. That model includes supporting not just the trails, but connecting them to local destinations – the restaurants, hotels, schools, and other areas throughout the Franconia valley. And that access will hopefully encourage more people to use the trails for healthy activities. “The Master Plan is all about links and destinations,” Nicodemus says, “and making lifestyle changes more possible for a more active lifestyle.”