2018 - A great year for outdoor recreation in the Valley!

12 10 2016

2018 was a great year for recreation in the Valley
By Ned Farquhar, Mad River Path Association

This was a great year for recreation and trails in the Valley. Next year might be even better.

Why does it matter that recreation thrived in 2018? Because the Valley’s quality of life depends on a lot of factors, but one of the main qualities people love about the Valley is our Great Outdoors, for snowmobiling, hiking, biking, skiing (of course!), running, and snow-shoeing. And because much of our regional economy, and many of our jobs, come back to recreation.

Here are some of 2018’s major recreation accomplishments:

The Mad River Riders made great progress on the new trails above American Flatbread, which sometimes attracted hundreds of bike riders a day. Use of Blueberry Lake, particularly for mountain biking, has also been growing rapidly.

The Mad River Valley Planning District initiated a consistent, well designed signage project for trailheads in Waitsfield, Warren, and Fayston, with tremendous support from the local voters and selectboards and the Valley Chamber of Commerce. This helps visitors and residents alike get oriented and know the trail system much better, besides replacing hodge-podge signage that had been outgrown over recent years. A regional trail mapping project, available online, will be a hallmark of 2019.

The Path Association, the Riders, and the Catamount Trail Association – led by the Fayston Conservation Commission – cooperated on major trail and bridge improvements in the Chase Brook Town Forest. The groups eliminated about 2500 feet of erodible trail, including some right next to Mill Brook where it had undesirable water quality impacts. Instead, users of all types can now stay out of the sensitive habitat and water quality areas on a 900-foot long, level trail.

Also at the Chase Brook Town Forest, on the advice of Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Path Association led the construction of lengthy “skyramps” that lead to the McCullough bridge across from Fayston Elementary. These skyramps lifted improvements and use out of the floodzone beside Mill Brook, easing access and reducing environmental risk.

In Irasville, the Path Association started a multi-year renovation of walking and biking paths, now called the Hosford Heart of the Valley Trail. New boardwalk and trails surfaces are being built “where the people are” to encourage getting outdoors in the course of daily activities such as shopping, dining out, and going to the bank or Post Office.

Improvements so far include brick plazas on both sides of Post Office Road near the Mad River Taste Place, a lovely maple walk on the Slow Road, a new boardwalk over bumpy ground by the Skatium, and boardwalks accessing the new Lawson’s Finest Liquids taproom. The Heart of the Valley trail will be further imoroved next summer, all the way from Carroll Road through business areas and natural areas all the way past Waitsfield Elementary.

There were also other maintenance projects and improvements through the Path’s trail system, including small ones such as a volunteer-led project to place water bars on the trail that goes up from Brook Road to Warren Elementary. The Path’s annual Mad Dash had about 460 registered runners and another estimated 50-60 kids Fun Runners.

The Mad River Valley Recreation District dedicated the Valley rec park in an enthusiastic all-ages celebration in October, under a beautiful new post-and-beam gazebo. The gazebo honors the high school students lost in the 2016 I-89 car crash, along with memorial benches dedicated to each of the five students.

Concerned citizens also started working together on dog waste issues. The education campaign about picking up dog waste was augmented by the siting of new bag dispensers, as dialogue about a possible dog park and scattered dog waste composting facilities in different areas also began to emerge.

Trail use was up. The Planning District conducted counts on several popular trails and consistently found more people getting outdoors onto our trail system. (Construction of new boardwalks prevented access for several weeks during the count, so numbers appeared to be slightly down in one area, but next year’s counts will show a big jump in use based on the partial counts this year.)

All of these activities were made possible by the support of Town officials, Town Conservation commissions, planning and development review boards, and cooperative organizations and volunteers. Businesses – including the big dogs at Sugarbush and investors in new Valley venues including the taproom – helped fund and organize much of our recreation activity. And none of it would be possible without the generosity of private landowners.

The Valley’s recreation organizations owe much appreciation to landowners, taxpayers and residents, as well as the visitors, second-home owners, members and donors, who made 2018 a great year for recreation. Along with that gratitude for support in the past year, we are really excited about what 2019 will bring.