The Mad River Valley Conservation and Recreation Visioning (CRV) team is hosting its first Community Learning Session at the Valley Players Theater in Waitsfield next week on December 7. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and includes presentations from two regional experts, Gus Goodwin and Drew Pollak-Bruce.



This session will serve as the first in a series aimed at building a shared foundation of knowledge around outdoor recreation and ecology in The Valley and beyond,” explained Emily Friedman, community project manager for the CRV team. The CRV work is part of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative grant that the Mad River Valley Rec District received in 2022.

The overall goal of the CRV project is to develop, through an inclusive community process, a set of maps, shared goals, guiding principles, and best practices that together will provide a well-supported vision for balancing ecological integrity with recreation and trails across The Valley.

“The project’s success depends on a community-wide understanding of the dynamics surrounding these issues,” Friedman said.

During this first session, the speakers will be focused on trends, ideas, and opportunities related to ecology and recreation in Vermont, the U.S., and globally. “We want to start with the big picture,” said CRV co-chair Laura Arnesen. “Understanding these broad themes will help as we narrow down our goals for The Valley.”

The two presentations will be followed by a Q&A.


Moving forward, the CRV project intends to host a community learning session every two to three months. Potential topics include wildlife corridors and habitat, forest ecology, recreation planning, trail standards, and more.

“We are committed to learning together as a community. We hope these sessions will help us develop a common language around issues related to the interplay between outdoor recreation and trails on the one hand, and ecological integrity and biodiversity on the other,” CRV co-chair Phil Huffman said.

Beyond community learning sessions, CRV has contracted with Arrowwood Environmental to compile research, data, and mapping connected to this work. The CRV steering committee plans to host a second community forum this winter to provide an update on Arrowwood’s efforts and to get feedback from Valley residents and others.

Goodwin and Pollak-Bruce, the speakers next week bring a wealth of experience and expertise. Goodwin is the senior conservation planner for the Vermont Chapter of TNC. In this role, he shepherds conservation projects from start to finish, engaging in conservation science, land protection, and ecological management.  His  background includes botany, wildlife tracking and road ecology, surficial geology, and conservation planning. 

Pollak-Bruce Drew is the owner and founder of CRO Planning and Design where he helps municipalities, counties, state agencies, federal land managers, nonprofits, and private sector clients navigate projects on public lands. He has worked as a professional planner, advocate, and journalist—often focusing on the intersection of communities, recreation, and open space. He has led trails workshops throughout the U.S. and spoken at numerous state and national conferences.

To join the CRV mailing list, email Friedman, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..