The board of the Mad River Path adopted a five-year strategic plan and also reported that path executive director Ross Saxton, Waitsfield, resigned to take a job in forestry in Bristol.
"I'm sad to be leaving as director, but I'm happy to see that the organization is positioned well to continue big accomplishments with its mission. With a passionate and talented board, an amazing and generous community and strong partners, it's very exciting that the Mad River Path will continue to keep getting bigger and better in coming months and years,” Saxton said at the path board’s January 14 meeting.
The strategic plan that the path board adopted acknowledges the history of the path association which was formed as a rivers and trails committee of the Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) under the development of the Rural Resource Protection Plan in 1988.
The original scope of this group was to create a publicly accessible off-road pedestrian path extending from Warren through Waitsfield toward Moretown across state- and town-owned lands, private property and farms, villages and commercial districts and school property.
The Mad River Path Recreation Association, as the group was originally titled, was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1990. The path association is a volunteer and community donor-based organization that relies on financial assistance and volunteer efforts from its supporters. The organization also receives financial support from business sponsors, grants from federal, state and local agencies and private foundations, town funds via the Mad River Valley Recreation District (MRVRD) and directly from the town of Waitsfield.
Today the organization has a budget of some $86,000 and employs an executive director and seasonal trails manager. Today there are more than 11 miles of paths, sidewalks, dirt roads and trails on public and private properties. At least 13 miles of completed trails are expected by 2021.
The strategic plan started with a community survey and led to the current vision which includes the original goal of a network of connected public paths and trails in The Valley with goal of connecting the towns from Warren to Moretown, but now also to connect Irasville to the Long Trail.
The plan lays out six goals with specific strategies for achieving them. The first goal is creating new sections of trail and connections. The second goal is to connect Irasville to the Long Trail with one continuous public trail, connecting The Valley floor with the ridge of the Green Mountains. The third goal is to continue building new trail connections from The Valley floor to existing networks while safeguarding wildlife, natural communities and remote areas. The fourth goal is to protect and conserve existing path and trail sections in perpetuity including purchasing land and easements as necessary and as funding allows.
The fifth goal is to maintain sustainable finances and the sixth goal is to implement lasting programs that engage the community and visitors with nature and the outdoors, providing opportunities for people to learn about nature and the outdoors.