By Josh O'Gorman
October 18, 2008
Mountain bikers and horseback riders rejoice — soon you will have more trails to ride, but you're going to have to pitch in and help.
The Green Mountain National Forest is opening up more than 35 miles of trails for equestrian use, while mountain bikers will be able to enjoy about 7 miles of new trails.
The decision to open the trails came after Green Mountain National Forest asked for public comment in March, which drew more than 600 comments and suggestions on which trails should be opened and what they should be used for.
"We had a lot of interest in designating these trails," said Rob Hoelscher, acting district ranger for the Middlebury and Rochester Ranger District. "We felt we needed to designate these trails and include mountain bike and equestrian riders and the first step was designating those trails that best support those uses."
Hoelscher said the trails were originally designed for uses that have heavier impact than either bikes or horses and many are used by snowmobile riders in the winter.
Hoelscher designated a network of trails and forest service roads east of Goshen Road and north of Goshen Dam in Goshen and Ripton that together will compose an approximate 7-mile loop for horseback riders.
Mountain bike riders will be able to enjoy the Oak Ridge Trail, a 1.5-mile ride whose trailhead is on Route 125 in Ripton just west of the Ripton Country Store.
In the southern part of the state, about 26 miles of trails have been designated for equestrian use in Glastenbury, Stratton, Winhall and Woodford, a network of trails that will create an 18-mile loop, said Doug Reeves, recreational planner for the Green Mountain National Forest.
Reeves said two trails — one measuring about 4.5 miles and the other about 1 mile — have been opened up for mountain bike use in the Stratton area.
While forest service officials have designated the trails for these new uses, they are not open yet.
"When the trails open up really depends on when we can form partnerships with equestrian groups and mountain bike groups," Hoelscher said. "They need to make improvements to the trails first before they're opened up."
Hoelscher said the Green Mountain National Forest is teaming with horse and mountain bike groups to assist in trail maintenance. His district has entered into an agreement with the Vermont Mountain Bike Association to improve and maintain the Oak Ridge trail and is in negotiations with an equestrian group to improve the horse trails.
"We're not building new trails. We're opening them up for multiple use," Reeves said. "The more partners we have the more uses we'll have for the trails."
Reeves said he is in negotiations with mountain bike and horse groups and planned to meet with them in November.
"The Vermont Mountain Bike Association is very pleased with our partnership with the forest service," executive director Patrick D. Kell.
The association has 21 chapters from Jay Peak to Putney and also works with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to open up state land to mountain bike riders.
Kell said his association recently received $35,000 in grants — $26,000 from the National Forest Foundation and $9,000 from the Bikes Belong Coalition — to improve the Oak Ridge Trail and other trails in the area. The National Forest Foundation grant will be paid to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp, which will work on the trails next summer, Kell said.
In the immediate future, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association will work on the Oak Ridge Trail, beginning 9 a.m. Sunday. For more information, visit them on the Web at www.vmba.org.
Contact Josh O'Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org.