The Mad River Valley Recreation District and community partners will receive a $408,019 Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative (VOREC) grant to develop a recreation hub that links recreation trails to Waitsfield and Irasville.
The grant is the largest VOREC grant that the Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation awarded last week. The rec district application was one of 104 initital letters submitted and one of the 37 that were invited to submit a full application. Thirty complete applications were received requesting $7.1 million. Vermont had $5.1 million to award and awarded $4,546,813 to 24 towns/projects. Grant amounts ranged from the rec district’s $408,019 to $62,500 for the town of Cabot.
"The successful VOREC grant application represents one of the largest investments in outdoor recreation in the history of the Mad River Valley. It will provide a focal point for visitors and residents to access, learn about and enjoy our recreational assets. The recreation hub will offer additional downtown parking, restrooms and be strategic in how it ties our trail infrastructure to our business community. The collaboration between all the partners has been tremendous and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce is honored to be involved,” said Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
BRIDGE OVER MILL BROOK
The recreation hub will be developed at Localfolk Smokehouse, on Route 17, where parking, restrooms and a welcome center will be located. The hub will include a bridge over the Mill Brook (thanks to easements with private landowners) connecting to the existing Mad River Riders’ 60-plus-mile trail network in the Howe Block of Camel’s Hump State Forest with Waitsfield’s commercial center. It will also provide a Valley-to-mountain recreation corridor and include a crosswalk over Route 100 and new section of Mad River Path providing a safe way for pedestrians and bikers to get to restaurants and shops.
"Much progress has been made over the past several months to establish the best way possible for connecting pedestrians and people on bikes between the new recreation hub and downtown Irasville. The Mad River Path and Waitsfield are working closely with VTrans to finalize the fine details that will allow for this off-road connection to be a safe and effective route for anyone on foot or bicycle,” said Ross Saxton, executive director of the Mad River Path.
"This project continues years of work that is making downtown Waitsfield and Irasville a safer and more fun place to walk, roll or ride a bike. Connecting our downtown to the businesses, amenities, recreation sites and living spaces that have been just out of safe reach for pedestrians and bikers is a huge step for our community's vibrancy. When construction is complete, we'll be able to enjoy a much better-connected downtown,” continued Saxton.
The new roadside trail along Route 100 will extend about 1/4 mile from Mad River Valley Real Estate building, up Dugway Road, across the hillside below The Blue Stone, and along Route 100 to the upcoming Addison West shop (formerly The Store). The surface will be a state-approved aggregate that meets accessibility specifications. Two Route 100 crosswalks are being planned with VTrans to help people cross the road; the first crosswalk location is planned between the new Recreation Hub site behind Localfolk to the MRV Real Estate parking area, and the second crosswalk is planned between the new Addison West shop (formerly The Store) and next to Northfield Savings Bank.
A key component of the project is the fact that it will be built in accordance with environmental protection measures including erosion control, runoff mitigation and an enhanced riparian buffer. “Environmental stewardship is a core focus through project design, community engagement in trail visioning and educational initiatives,” the applicants wrote in the grant proposal.
“Our Mad River Valley community loves being active outdoors and loves nature,” said Corrie Miller, executive director of Friends of the Mad River. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to dream together as a community about how the Valley’s trail network can capitalize on outdoor recreational benefits while also sustaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the watershed so that future generations can enjoy it.”
Increasing stewardship of outdoor recreation resources and environmental quality is one of the five critical pillars of the VOREC grant. Other pillars include increasing participation in outdoor activities for all demographics, strengthening the quality and extent of outdoor resources, growing outdoor recreation-related businesses and promoting the benefits of outdoor recreation.
The Mad River Recreation Hub will expand the economic and social impact of outdoor recreation in the Mad River Valley by capitalizing on existing recreation assets and community initiatives. There are 185 miles of mapped public recreational trails in The Valley (Catamount Trail, Long Trail, VAST Trails, as well as local trails). The demand for trail-based recreation and its importance to the local economy has led project partners to work together for the past decade to improve The Valley’s trail network.
Building on the MRV Moves Plan and the Forest, Wildlife Communities Projects, The Valley’s conservation commissions, Friends of the Mad River and the MRV Trails Collaborative are working together to better incorporate landscape-level natural resource values into regional trail planning. The partners envision a “Gold Standard” trail network for The Valley that grows and sustains outdoor recreation and off-road connectivity for all their health, education and economic benefits, while enhancing the ecological integrity of the local watershed.
“The Mad River Riders have been building and protecting trails for public use since 1986. The bridge over the Mill Brook will link directly to the heart of The Valley’s trail network. People can gather at the hub and head out into the woods for a loop through the forest or a longer journey. Then back into town for a meal or beer without moving their cars. The trails link directly to Lareau Swim Hole, Riverside Park, more than a dozen inns, Fayston Elementary School, Sugarbush snowmaking pond, Eurich Pond, Lincoln Peak, Mount Ellen and many other places,” said Bob Kogut, president of the Mad River Riders.
“We have a strong team that brings a depth of experience to this project and reflects The Valley's unique potential and values," said Laura Arnesen, executive director of the Mad River Valley Recreation District.
“This project capitalizes on a history of collaboration between local planning, recreation and environmental groups and builds on recent data showing the economic impact of trail-based recreation. Taxpayer support for the rec district's executive director position, which I now hold, enabled us to provide administrative support for this project. Every member of our team has played a critical role in helping us get the largest VOREC grant in Vermont this year. It’s a two-year project so there is much work ahead. We appreciate the support and look forward to working with the community to achieve this new recreation hub in downtown Waitsfield,” concluded Arnesen.
Expect a late April or early May community conversation about the new recreation hub that mirrors one held last November about the project.
Governor Phil Scott will announce all recipients of the VOREC grants at a press conference in Danville on Monday, March 28, at 11 a.m.