I am writing in response to a letter in last week's Valley Reporter titled 'MR Riders should step away'. The Mad River Riders are not planning a new trail in Phen Basin; the letter is inaccurate on that point. Several years ago, we did submit a preproposal to the state for consideration of a trail. But, after the Fayston Conservation Commission alerted the Riders of their ecological concerns, we met at the site to inspect the route and discuss potential impacts. Immediately following that site visit, which occurred over two years ago, the Riders abandoned the trail proposal and informed the state that we were no longer pursuing it. We also promised to work proactively with the Fayston Conservation Commission on all future trail planning.
I can understand the mistake. A review of the Camel's Hump Management Unit Long Range Management Plan reveals language saying the state will "consider expansion of mountain bike trails in cooperation with the Mad River Riders . . ." The management plan was released in October 2021 and was in the works for many years preceding that. Despite the fact that the state will consider it, we are not pursuing any new trails in that area.
Legally and by historical precedent, the Mad River Riders work closely with the responsible land managers, whether they be federal, state, or town, on every trail project we consider or pursue. In particular, Phen Basin is managed by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. The process to develop a trail always includes careful consideration of factors such as conformance with existing land management plans, wildlife protection, sensitive plant species protection, wetlands protection, erosion, runoff management, and other watershed protection concerns, historical preservation, and others. That process is guided and governed by the land manager. Historically, other parties such as town conservation commissions have opportunity to weigh-in on land management plans when they are written, but generally are not invited by state or federal land managers to get involved with individual projects.
Outdoor recreation and conservation organizations in the Mad River Valley (including the Mad River Riders) have decided to go beyond the requirement to work with only land managers. We collectively have decided to work together to better plan trails and protect the ecology of the watershed. I believe this voluntary and proactive collaboration between recreation and environmental groups is unique in the state. Through a number of avenues, including the Trails Collaborative and the Conservation and Recreation Visioning project, the Mad River Riders work on a nearly daily basis with conservation groups to improve outdoor recreation opportunities and protect the health and vitality of the Mad River Valley's ecosystems.
Bob Kogut is board president of Mad River Riders.