Hit the Road: The African American Heritage Trail, Lemon Fair Sculpture Park and Kingdom Trails | Staytripper | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Hit the Road: The African American Heritage Trail, Lemon Fair Sculpture Park and Kingdom Trails

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Rokeby Museum - COURTESY OF ROKEBY MUSEUM
  • Courtesy Of Rokeby Museum
  • Rokeby Museum

Vermont African American Heritage Trail

Statewide locations

In recent weeks, demonstrators have gathered in cities across the country to honor the lives of Black Americans killed by law enforcement officers and to demand an end to police brutality. Vermonters have joined such protests and gatherings, too — in Burlington and Bellows Falls, Springfield and St. Albans, Milton and Montpelier, and beyond.

In a state that's overwhelmingly white — 94.2 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census — there's much Vermonters can learn about the experience of Black Americans, both today and historically. The Vermont African American Heritage Trail informs those who travel it of "the enduring contributions of Vermonters of African heritage and the role of white Vermonters in both Vermont and American civil rights history," its website states.

An initiative of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, the heritage trail leads to museums, self-guided walking tours and historic sites across the state.

While not all locations are currently open, due to the pandemic, plenty of sites are still accessible. These include Woodstock's River Street Cemetery, which contains the graves of eight soldiers of the Civil War's all-Black Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Ferrisburgh's Rokeby Museum (reopening July 1), a National Historic Landmark and Underground Railroad site; and East Poultney's Jeffrey Brace Historic Marker, which commemorates the memoirist of 1810's The Blind African Slave. Plan a road trip around some of these important and educational stops.

Lemon Fair Sculpture Park

4547 Route 74, East Shoreham
Lemon Fair Sculpture Park - KEN PICARD
  • Ken Picard
  • Lemon Fair Sculpture Park

Though the pandemic has shuttered many museums and galleries, those looking to appreciate art can safely do so outside. Eight miles southwest of Middlebury College, Lemon Fair Sculpture Park boasts a mowed, mile-and-a-half walking path that snakes through grassy fields, past 49 large sculptures made from steel, titanium, stone and concrete.

Named for the slow and silty river that runs through the property, Lemon Fair is situated on 360 acres of land owned by art enthusiasts Frank and Elaine Ittleman — a University of Vermont Medical Center cardiothoracic surgeon and a labor and delivery nurse, respectively.

Some sculptures are abstract, such as Brooklyn artist John Clements' "The Tiller," a playful orange swirl reminiscent of a twisted-up pool noodle. Others are amusing, like Newark, Vt.-based Martin McGowan's "Fish on a Bicycle," which is inspired by the feminist slogan "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

Three years ago, Vermont sculptor Peter Lundberg created "Leap of Faith" on-site; Frank calls it the "focal point" of the park. The wavy concrete form rises 30 feet high and weighs 60,000 pounds.

The Ittlemans, who opened their property to the public in 2016, began with about a dozen sculptures and have expanded their collection each year. About 10 of the sculptures are for sale, with information listed on the park's website.

The park is open for self-guided tours seven days a week through November. Picnicking and on-leash dogs are permitted. The Ittlemans say there's been an appreciable increase in visitors during COVID-19. "It's healthy. It's a great relaxant," Frank says of strolling the property. "We call it the 'art heart walk.'"

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Kingdom Trails

East Burke, see website for parking sites
Kingdom Trails - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Kingdom Trails

Bike magazine calls it "the best trail network in North America." Ride magazine calls it "fantastic, with miles and miles of unique trails and terrain." So what is it, exactly, that makes Kingdom Trails so special?

First, this nonprofit Northeast Kingdom recreational network has more than 100 miles of nonmotorized trails, suitable for all seasons and ability levels. Second, it all exists on 97 private properties, whose owners generously allow the trails to cross their lands. And third, it's the reverence that those who bike, ski and snowshoe Kingdom Trails have for the place.

Indeed, spurred by COVID-19, the nonprofit introduced a new code of conduct this season that sums it up nicely: "Ride with gratitude." It's contingent on four principles: "respect this gift," "protect nature," "care for others" and "set the example."

Recognizing that outdoor recreation is "crucial to people's physical and mental well-being, especially amidst this time of crisis," Kingdom Trails is open with pandemic precautions in place. Read up on the specific policies before you take advantage of the single-track biking trails for which this place is known — as the website notes, "the network has become world-famous as a mountain biking mecca." There are also trails designated for families and beginners, as well as pedestrian paths for those who prefer to hoof it.

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Vermont Vacation logoFind more information on Vermont day trips and adventures from the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing at vermontvacation.com/staytripper.

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