Mud season is here in the Mad River Valley and for many that means busting out the shorts and T-shirts for some warm weather outdoor fun. Everyone is tempted to hit the trails as soon as the snow melts, but for the sake of the future of trails, it’s important that people respect all trail closures, reported Ross Saxton, director of the Mad River Path Association.
The vast majority of trails in the Mad River Valley and Vermont are closed until the ground dries. Trails typically start to open up in May or after, depending on the weather over the next month or two. Trails managed by the Mad River Riders, the Green Mountain Club and the Catamount Trail Association are closed to all activities until an announcement is made by these organizations. People should check with each group to find out when trails open and not all trails will open at the same time. The exception is that many of the Mad River Path trails are open, which people can find described online at madriverpath.org/maps. Although, the Mill Brook trail is closed now and short sections of open trails may need to be temporarily closed because of excessively wet areas; keep an eye out for signage.
“When a trail is open, but you find a wet or muddy spot, it's best to go straight through this area to avoid widening the damage, whether on foot or biking. Trail users are always welcome to turn around and completely avoid sensitive spots. Our many local dirt roads are a fantastic alternative to trails in the spring. Be sure to wear bright clothes and/or blinking lights,” Saxton explained.
He noted that some people will be tempted to use closed trails, but said that one or two hikers, runners or bikers can cause a significant amount of damage -- both physically to the trails and to the collective reputation of hikers, runners and bikers. Furthermore, trail damage is very time consuming to fix, and it can take funds away from other projects, he added.
“Trails exist because generous landowners and land managers allow trails to be there. This remains true for public land. We must show our appreciation to these landowners who host trails. Using trails when they're closed can lead to a good deal of erosion, which is really bad for our streams and the Mad River. Erosion can actually lead to dead fish and insects and then harm everything up the food chain from there. Sometimes trails are closed because people using them can unintentionally chase wildlife away from vital seasonal habitat. An example is a deer wintering yard, in which deer survive through the snowy months. Bears also need big chunks of land where they can recharge undisturbed after a long winter of hibernating,” Saxton said
“Oh, and don’t forget, keep your dogs leashed and pick their poop -- every time,” he added.
To find out about the status of a trail, check directly with trail groups or go online to trailfinder.info or trailforks.com.