L to R: Conservation commissioner Bonnie Pease, Milton Rep. Don Turner, commissioner Dan Gaherty, commissioner Judy Kinner and planner director Jake Hemmerick are pictured at the Vermont State House after accepting a Public Places award. (Courtesy photo)

The Milton Conservation Commission’s efforts to make the Eagle Mountain natural area easier to traverse were recently recognized with a top prize.

The wayfinding sign project was one of nine statewide to earn a Public Places Award, an honor sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Vermont Community and Urban Forestry Council and the Vermont Planners Association.

The award’s goal is to recognize public spaces and corridors “enriched by planning or design,” a press release said.

Other honor awards include the Hartford High School makeover project in White River Jct., Lamoille Valley Railtrail wayfinding, Oakledge Park’s master plan in Burlington and the Spruce Peak Village Center in Stowe, among others.

Milton’s project began in 2013, when the conservation commission and Lake Champlain Land Trust partnered to make Eagle Mountain – a 226-acre natural area, purported to be Vermont’s highest land point along the lake  – more navigable for visitors.

The land trust gifted the parcel to the town in 1998 and retains a conservation easement on the property, which was donated by Miltonians John and Peggy Hoyt.

Three members of the commission pose outside the State House. (Courtesy photo)

Most visitors are familiar with the Hoyt Lookout and Summit Trail, but the mountain’s western side has lesser-traveled trails that boast mossy ledges and wildflowers, including white trillium that blanket the landscape.

Years ago, Boy Scouts marked these side trails with numbered plastic diamonds, which have faded, or in some cases, grown into the trees, a conservation commission press release said.

“Hikers would arrive at confusing junctions and have little indication of where they were or which way to turn,” the news release said.

With the land trust, the commission and planning director Jake Hemmerick created a single map and brochure, replacing the two existing separate ones. A 3-foot-by-3-foot aluminum informational sign is now displayed at the Henry Rd. access point.

In 2015, the commission painted blazes on the trees marking the trail, and in 2016, the group was awarded a state recreation trail grant. The monies allowed the group to purchase and install 10 wooden signposts along the side trails.

The group accepted the award at a ceremony in the Vermont State House’s Cedar Creek Room on February 14.