The first trio of trails includes the 3-mile Boquet Mountain Trail following old logging roads across the prominent saddle-backed mountain; the 1-mile Beaver Flow Trail and the shorter Bobcat Trail. All are marked with green CATS markers that feature a bobcat's paw print.
Access to the Boquet Mountain trail can be gained by a northern trailhead on Jersey Street about 1.5 miles west of the Boquet River bridge and on the southern end on Cook Road, just west of the junction with Leaning Road. The Beaver Flow Trail leaves Cook Road and continues south to Walker Road through a diverse forest and beside a series of beaver ponds and the Bobcat Trail continues through fields and forests from Walker Road to Ferris Road, a few miles north of the Wadhams hamlet.
All three trails are mostly on land owned by the Eddy Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization.
"Protecting wildlife habitat and connecting people with nature is part of the Eddy Foundation's mission," said Jamie Phillips, president of the foundation and a member of the CATS board of directors. "We are pleased to make our land available for this segment of the trail network. The trails provide residents with a nearby place to hike and offer visitors non-motorized outdoor recreation opportunities."
Dozens of volunteers are helping clear the trails.
"In fact, so many people showed up for our first trail-clearing work party that we cleared the Boquet Mountain Trail in less than a day instead of the two or three days we'd expected it would take," said Sheri Amsel, chair of the CATS board and a noted naturalist and author/illustrator.
Amsel recently created a map showing the new trails as well as local dirt and paved roads that are good for walking. They can be viewed or downloaded at www.champlainareatrails.com.
The notion of CATS began two years ago when longtime Essex residents Steven Kellogg and Bruce Klink were discussing Bill McKibben's book "Wandering Home," about his long walking trip in the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks.