To The Editor:
I have deep respect for Jon Jamieson, a voice of reason and common sense, and I agree with his view expressed in a letter to The Valley Reporter last week that anonymous ads against trails aren't necessarily helpful. And I agree with him that most local trails have been carefully designed and sustainably built. Older trails that weren't well sited have been fixed to sharply reduce threats to waterways and to reduce damage to habitat and ecology, as on the Mill Brook trail across from Fayston Elementary School, through exemplary cooperation among the Fayston Conservation Commission, the Mad River Path, and the Mad River Riders, among others.
But there's a threat on the horizon. And it needs to be addressed full on and quickly. Somehow the Mad River Riders convinced the state agencies managing Camel’s Hump to approve the concept of a biking trail through the Phen Basin, in an approved and adopted addition to the Camel’s Hump management plan. In the process, several groups were mischaracterized by the Riders as supportive of the trail, which entirely contradicts the permanent conservation easement attached to the property for its ecological protection. The easement says plainly that there will be no construction of new trails, bridges, water crossings, etc. for mechanized recreation. The land -- approximately 2,500 acres -- was protected largely for its special ecological character. The Riders should publicly commit to permanently stepping away from this plan, now.
How the Agency of Natural Resources and state Department of Forestry, Parks, and Recreation approved this concept in defiance of the legal restrictions on the land is inexplicable and inexcusable. The land is not the appropriate place for potentially hundreds of bike riders daily to visit in the limited, fertile summertime. The agencies, in support of Big Rec (Recreation), have ventured into what could fast turn into a Big Wreck (ecological).
Decades ago, I worked in support of Sugarbush's need for new snowmaking but rejected the company's original proposal for ecologically threatening water withdrawals from the Mad River at very low midwinter levels. The company found a better way, but only after litigation and a political battle. The Riders are putting ecologically concerned Valley residents and visitors in the position of fighting for basic compliance with the easement that (bought and paid for with American dollars) promised perpetual ecological protection of a sensitive, valuable ecological area. The Valley doesn't need a fight like that.