WATERBURY – Four months after a major landslide significantly impacted access to a popular recreation area in Mount Mansfield State Forest, Cotton Brook Road in Waterbury has reopened.
While initial assessments of the landslide area have determined that the road can be opened for public recreation, officials with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) caution that continued observation and a new management strategy will be necessary to ensure public safety.
Fosters Trail will remain closed while state geologists continue to assess the distribution of glacial clays in the area.
FPR will begin considering options for a new trail when they know more about locations where it will be safe to establish a new connector.
The following areas are also closed until further notice:
1. The delta that has formed at the outlet of Cotton Brook
2. Remote campsites 16, 20, and 21 in Little River State Park (likely to reopen for the 2020 camping season)
3. Cotton Brook from the area of the landslide downstream to the reservoir
These closed locations can re-open once FPR is confident that the landslide is no longer active and the soils associated with the delta have stabilized.
Another change will be an extension of the spring mud season closure for the Cotton Brook Road.
This closure could be dependent on the amount of rain the area receives, as spring rains saturating soils contributed to the landslide being triggered.
“The Fosters Trail landslide has completely changed the way we manage recreation in the Cotton Brook basin,” said FPR Field Recreation Specialist Walter Opuszynski.
The Fosters Trail allowed for an easily accessible loop and quicker recreation corridor connectivity between the towns of Waterbury and Stowe.
It was also a safe alternative route for snowmobiles when forest management activities were taking place in the winter.
On May 31, 2019, a landslide occurred in the Cotton Brook area of Mount Mansfield State Forest.
The landslide transported 250,000 cubic meters of material and took out a 700-foot section of the Fosters Trail, temporarily dammed Cotton Brook, and laid mature trees across Cotton Brook Road.
To ensure public safety, Fosters Trail and Cotton Brook Road were closed, and a team of geologists was brought in to assess the landslide and determine if there were other locations in the Cotton Brook basin with the potential for a slide of similar scope and impact.
The geology team has been monitoring the landslide.
Currently, it is considered active with an area of approximately two acres that could continue to slide down the bank toward Cotton Brook.
The impact of future activity associated with the Fosters Trail landslide was determined to not pose an immediate risk to Cotton Brook Road.
An initial assessment of other areas along the basin with similar slope characteristics did not show immediate signs of landslide activity.
“Future studies will help us better understand how the glacial clays that played a significant role in this landslide are distributed through the Cotton Brook basin,” said State Geologist Marjorie Gale.