Existing trails in Green Mountain National Forest
The activities had been severely limited, if not restricted altogether, on forest trails in the past. About 26 miles of the new horse trails, and five of the new bike trails, are in the towns of Woodford, Glastenbury, Winhall and Stratton.
Willene Martin, a horseback rider with the Vermont Trail Trotters, said she was ecstatic after hearing last week's news. "I can't be more pleased," she said. "These trails provide us with a wonderful opportunity. They're just gorgeous."
The Trail Trotters are a Bennington-based organization dedicated to the preservation, development and enhancement of equestrian trails in the state. Members had been working with the Forest Service during the year-long process aimed at providing more recreational opportunities in the forest. Martin said horseback riding had been banned on all trails except those open to vehicular traffic.
Manchester District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz said a lot of planning went into the new trail designations. Officials had to balance all the different uses, from ATVs to bird watching, and look at the environmental impact of their decisions. He said multiple-use management is a complicated process and will never be perfect.
"You're never going to get it right at a discrete moment in time," he said. "It's a matter of trying to hit that moving target, being adaptive and accommodating."
The service asked for public comments regarding the change in March and received 600 responses. The new uses also give the service more partners who can help with maintaining the service's vast trail system, according to Doug Reeves, a recreation planner with the service.
One of these partners is the Vermont Mountain Biking Association, based in Richmond with chapters all throughout the state. Its executive director, Patrick D. Kell, said some of that work has already begun. Members helped maintain the Oak Ridge Trail in Addison County on Sunday and are planning more outings in the future.
Kell said there was a prior misconception that Vermont had great mountain biking trails before this recent news. "Traditionally, the area has been very limited," he said.
He applauded the service's recent efforts and hoped greater access would be granted in the future.
Although the trails have been designated, Reeves said signs identifying where the new uses are acceptable won't be posted until next year. The service is also working on maps with the new trails highlighted. When available, the maps will be posted on the service's Web site, www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/greenmountain/index.htm.
One of the new bike trials goes from Routes 11/30 in Manchester to Mount Tabor; the other starts in the town of Stratton and goes to what locals call the "IP Road."
In the towns of Goshen and Ripton, the service opened up about 8 miles of trails for equestrian use and another 3 miles to mountain bikers.
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