By Rachel Goff

Like tiny veins, trails extend from the hearts of forested areas throughout The Valley, climbing mountains, following rivers and passing through meadows and people’s backyards. Sometimes they end in a sign on a summit, sometimes they end in back of a supermarket and sometimes they end in the middle of nowhere at all.

In 2010, the Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) formed the Mad River Valley Trails Collaborative to better bring together the various clubs and organizations that build and maintain The Valley’s many trails and on Monday, June 25, of this year, the Trails Collaborative finalized an updated map of its extensive system.

The map, which will feature popular hikes on the Long Trail alongside lesser-known routes, such as trails surrounding Harwood Union High School and Ole’s Cross Country Center, is going to print later this week, and it should be available in stores for a small fee starting next month.

There’s a wide “spectrum” of trails in The Valley, Joshua Schwartz explains, from seemingly secret neighborhood trails to trails that receive a lot of out-of-state traffic. Schwartz is the director of the MRVPD and the driving force behind the Trails Collaborative’s inception and most recent GPS-aided accomplishment.

The new map will help acquaint both locals and those less familiar with the area with the variety of trails available for their use (as all property owners have granted their permission for their trails’ inclusion, of course). “It’s a really exciting project,” Schwartz said, “and I think it could have a lot of impact of economic development [in The Valley].”

Creating the map was just one of the Trails Collaborative’s many goals, however. As an organization, the Trails Collaborative also hopes to establish a unified web presence for The Valley’s trails as well as provide support for the work that goes into building the trails.

“Let’s know what we have, let other people know, and let’s take care of it,” Schwartz said, summarizing the group’s overall mission. Right now, he’s focusing on the “take care of it.”

“There’s a lot of trail work happening in The Valley this summer,” Schwartz said, as he’s been able to leverage state resources and convince the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to focus their efforts in the Mad River area.

Of the four specific trail work project grants that Schwartz applied for, three of them received funding. For one of the funded projects, which will take place this summer, VYCC members will work on restoring a washed-out section of trail in the Mill Brook Town Forest in Fayston.

Overall, the VYCC will put in 15 weeks of trail work in The Valley this summer. One of the reasons Schwartz was able to secure workers and funding for the Trails Collaborative’s projects is simply because “we have so much to offer,” he said.

To become acquainted with these offerings, buy one of the new maps and pick out a trail you’ve never heard of before. Because no matter how well you think you may know an area, there’s always more to explore.