Major landslide damages popular Stowe, Waterbury trails

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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) An active landslide has damaged popular trails in the Mount Mansfield State Forest in Stowe and Waterbury.

Officials say a portion of the Cotton Brook Road trail and the entirety of the Fosters Trail in Mt. Mansfield State Forest have been closed until further notice.

Those familiar with the area say the damage is devastating. "The road was somewhere right here," said Steve Torrey with Snowmobile Vermont. "Trees falling, rocks tumbling, mud moving."

Torrey saw the damage when he rode his ATV up Cotton Brook Road early Sunday morning. "Acres upon acres of the forest completely disappeared. It had just slid off the side of the mountain and the river was washing it away. There was cracks in the soil leading up to the edge of the slide where you could tell that there had been structural damage to the mountain side" he said.

A group of mountain bikers alerted Torrey to the slide Saturday afternoon. When he saw it Sunday morning, he estimated it was about 20 acres wide, and actively taking out Fosters Trail and portions of Cotton Brook Road. Since then, he guesses it's grown exponentially. "There's a good chance it doubled in size overnight" he said.

"A lot of people come here and run and walk their dogs and go hiking, so if they have to shut it down, this is a big loss," said Peg Wadds, who walks her dogs there every day. "I'm really surprised and kind of upset because this is our favorite spot."

Now Wadds and many other visitors will have to wait for more information from the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, which plans to send a geological team to take a look at the damage.

"Once you park at the gate on Cotton Brook Road from Moscow, about 1.2 miles up, there's a hay shed. From that area to Kelty's Corner is the area that we're restricting access to, which is a popular biking and pedestrian hiking area," said the Department's Danielle Fitzko. "We are asking the public to respect the safety signs that we have out. We're not quite sure how stable the area is until we can do further assessments."

"This isn't going to impact just a seasonal snowmobiler, this is going to impact that area for years to come," Torrey said.