MONTPELIER — On the heels of one of Vermont’s largest snowfalls of the season, while skiers and snowboarders from neighboring states revel in fresh powder, Vermont will be celebrating Tourism Day at the Statehouse on Wednesday, March 22. Throughout the day, industry leaders will engage with legislators and the governor to raise awareness to the collective contributions of the outdoor and visitor economy.
Whether it’s hiking in Southern Vermont, biking in the Kingdom, camping at Gifford Woods State Park, skiing at Smuggler’s Notch Resort, or sailing on Lake Champlain, the 60-plus million tourists who live within a day’s drive come to enjoy the outdoor recreation landscape, which is at the center of Vermont’s visitor economy.
“The ripple effect of outdoor recreation is visible in our vibrant downtowns and village centers with Vermonters and visitors focused on healthy outdoor pursuits and innovative businesses attracting employees to be part of building the communities we want to live in,” said Kelly Ault, executive director of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance. “This highly diversified outdoor sector is partnering with nonprofit organizations and the public sector to strengthen all that we value.”
With 8,000-plus miles of public access trails, including the Appalachian, Long, Catamount and Cross Vermont trails, along with the newly open 93-mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail; 40 alpine and nordic ski areas with over 8,800 skiable miles; hundreds of navigable waterways; a growing Hut system and the Velomont trail, Vermont has a multitude of recreational opportunities and assets. But, in order to maintain their environmental quality, while ensuring people will continue to have access to the trails and landscape of Vermont into the future, stakeholders say these assets require sustainable investment to provide thoughtful stewardship.
“The stewardship of our recreational assets has largely been led by non-profit organizations who are dependent on volunteers to keep these trails and waterways open for public access,” said Nick Bennette, co-chair of the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council. “It will take coordinated investment in these organizations and long-term visioning with stakeholders to maintain trails as critical infrastructure for Vermont communities that provide better health, sustainable economies, and an increased commitment to conservation.”
Investing in outdoor recreation at the community level can continue to foster Vermont’s visitor economy, through support for workforce recruitment and retention, bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure, and the small businesses that provide needed services to visitors, according to Jackie Dagger, program manager for the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative.
“Increasing participation opportunities for the broad spectrum of communities visiting Vermont and the diverse communities that live in our state is the key to our growth and sustainability,” said Dagger. “By investing in our recreation resources at the community level and strengthening partnerships between stakeholder groups in the outdoor recreation economy we can do a better job of providing access to those who are historically underserved and attract more visitors to a welcoming Vermont.”