Written by Ross Saxton, executive director of the Mad River Path. Trail Mix is a series about the ins and outs of trail building, trail management and recreation around the Mad River Valley (and a little beyond.
Last week’s Trail Mix article dove into where people can find a wide range of trails throughout the Mad River Valley. Also included was the basic trail etiquette to follow once out on the trails to help make sure people have a safe and enjoyable time as well as others -- these are always good to review, from dogs to rubbish. This article covers the organizations and groups that make the 100-plus miles of trails in The Valley possible.
More than 25 different organizations are involved with trails in the Mad River Valley, all of which work together through the MRV Trails Collaborative. A handful of these organizations are responsible for the majority of the local trail work, so keeping up with important updates and news is fairly simple. Trails close sometimes when things get muddy, maintenance is needed, hunting season rolls around and other events. Knowing when volunteer work days are planned, when an angry turkey momma is chasing people (it’s happened) or when a new trail is open are all good to know. So who to follow online?
First up is the Mad River Riders (MRR). MRR is a group of volunteers and one paid director. The trails MRR has built over the decades, continue to build and maintain annually comprise the most extensive network in The Valley and connect many corners of the area. Years ago before the organization was established as it is today, which is a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Biking Association (VMBA), a group of community members built trails that were often technical and more oriented for intermediate and advanced riders, hikers and runners. In recent years, many miles of new trails have been built for people of all abilities with a focus on accessibility for beginners, kids and families. The result is a mix of trails for all skill levels and interests, whether on wheels or in shoes or boots. MRR trails can take people across The Valley from the riverbanks to up high into the hills with just about every type of forest and meadow in between. They have a program for kids called Little Rippers, where dozens of kids are led on weekly group rides with experienced adult riders.
The Mad River Path (MRP) network offers a contrast to the MRR network with mostly flat and smooth surfaces for enjoying the outdoors. Folks need to travel along some sections of the MRP network to access a few of the MRR trails. MRP started in the early 1990s with the mission to connect Warren to Moretown with one continuous, publically accessible path. This mission is still underway with new sections being built every year. The path is close to the river and many swimming holes and fishing spots are just steps off the trail. Every year more picnic tables and nature shelters are added or repaired along the Mad River Path, providing places for picnics, wildlife viewing or just relaxing. Find outdoor activity ideas for families on the MRP website.
There are many other organizations to keep an eye on for recreation info. The Mad River Valley Recreation District provides grants for local projects and programs while helping to coordinate recreation activities. Through River Watch, Friends of the Mad River take the pulse of the Mad River and help inform the community about pollutant levels, like E. coli, at various swimming holes. The Valley’s two downhill ski resorts, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, both host trails for all the seasons and offer summer hiking opportunities, while Sugarbush has been expanding its mountain biking offerings. Cross-country skiing on groomed trails is made possible by Ole’s Cross Country Center and Blueberry Lake Cross Country Center, both in Warren.
For the two state long trails that travel through The Valley, keep up with the Catamount Trail Association and the Green Mountain Club. The Mad River Ridge Runners groom and maintain more than 70 miles of snowmobiling trails between The Valley’s bottom and some of the highest hills. The Valley is lucky to include federal and state public lands, which means that the U.S. Forest Service and VT Forests, Parks and Recreation are at the table. Most people won’t hear much about the Mad River Valley Trails Collaborative; however, in the background this group of trail organizations is facilitating important improvements and growth to outdoor recreation in The Valley. Finally, the Mad River Valley Planning District has helped convene the various organizations and was instrumental in coordinating the new trailhead kiosks throughout The Valley.
Links to The Valley’s trail organizations and a map of trails is found at https://www.madrivervalley.com/trails.