The main function of VMBA, the central reason we exist as a non-profit, is to serve the 29 Chapters that make up our organization. Supporting our individual Chapters through membership management, advocacy and lobbying for trails in Montpelier, town & landowner agreements, and marketing & public relations, VMBA offers a number of services that help each Chapter to be successful and thrive. One of the most rewarding things VMBA is able to do for Chapters year in and year out is to offer grant funding to support trail projects. Each year, in addition to the generous offerings of our corporate partners’ Naming Grants, VMBA designates tens of thousands of dollars of organizational revenue to be distributed to deserving Chapters who apply for assistance with new trail construction, trail rehab and updating efforts, and community connection projects. In 2023, VMBA distributed nearly $50,000 in Trail Grants, a portion of which helped unlock an additional $50,000 in matching funds from the Northern Forest Center through their Sustainable Vermont Trails grant program. In celebration and recognition of these deserving Chapters, let’s take a look at where the money went, and what it was or will be used for.
Richmond Mountain Trails (RMT) applied for and was awarded $7,000 to put towards expanded and improved parking at their new Driving Range trail system, “the first network in Vermont to be built from design through construction to be fully adaptive-friendly” according to Chapter Director Bec Wojtecki. This project capped off a years-long effort to create what is now the crown jewel of Vermont’s growing adaptive-friendly trail offerings.
Bennington Area Trail System (BATS) submitted an application to support improvements to trail navigation at their Mount Anthony trail network. They were awarded $3,000 to build new trailhead kiosks and wayfinding signs throughout their trail system. These trails are a valuable resource for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds in Southwestern Vermont, and these improvements will make these already fabulous trails even more user-friendly.
Up in Barre, Millstone Trails Association (MTA) was looking to improve signage as well. They applied for a Trail Grant to create new signage throughout their legendary Millstone Trails network. The committee awarded them $2,305 to improve and expand trail markers, making navigation and wayfinding through their historic quarries and woods easier to traverse and enjoy.
Back down in Southern Vermont, the folks at the Jamaica Area Mountain Bike Alliance (JAMBA) needed an assist from VMBA to complete the young Chapter’s first ever trails project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Ball Mountain Lake. A landmark partnership between a VMBA Chapter and a new federal land owner, this land use agreement allows JAMBA to build and maintain trails on USACE property, including at the spectacular Ball Mountain Dam. This year’s Trail Grant award of $7,000 helped JAMBA complete the second half of this initial project, the downhill trail Hard Corps, complementing an earlier VMBA supported project, Having a Ball, the top half of a truly smile-inducing descent.
Staying in the southern part of the state, one of the fastest growing VMBA Chapters, Southern Vermont Trails Association (SoVTA) accomplished an enormous amount of growth and development this year with its trail projects. Perhaps the most ambitious of these efforts is the new network of trails at Stratton Town Forest, which includes a fully adaptive friendly loop and access trail. With Trail Grant assistance from VMBA to the tune of $7,000, SoVTA was able to complete the access trail, and take a major step forward in making Dover a mountain bike destination for riders of all abilities.
Meanwhile, up in Plainfield, Riders of Plainfield-Marshfield (RIPM) applied for funds to help with a number of aspects at the trail project at the Twinfield Union School. With $5,049 in awarded Trail Grant money, RIPM was able to create improved trail maps, build trailhead kiosks, and improve signage at this wonderful resource that connects the villages of Plainfield and Marshfield with Groton State Forest.
Up the road from Plainfield in Underhill, the Brewster River MTB Club (BRMBC), working with the town and local community, wanted to create a bike/multi-use path at the Underhill Central School. The Trail Grants committee awarded them $4,800 towards this effort to create a central recreation path for all users. This initial phase of a larger plan to connect the school and town with a skills park and mountain bike trails, builds on an existing partnership between BRMBC and a local organization, Kids on Bikes.
Elsewhere in Chittenden County, VMBA’s largest Chapter, Fellowship of the Wheel (FOTW), needed major financial assistance to make sustainable upgrades to the Eagles Trail in Hinesburg Town Forest. With an award of $4,500, matching funds for an additional $18,000 from the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Vermont Trails program, FOTW will be able to improve this critical multi-use major artery through one of Northern Vermont’s most popular trail networks. Addressing significant water management issues along the entirety of this two-mile access trail, the folks at FOTW will be able to make Eagles Trail a model for sustainable redesign and help set a standard for how to adapt existing trails to withstand the increasing threats of severe weather and erosion.
Back down in Bennington, BATS applied for funding to support efforts to make their trails across Mount Anthony more sustainable. With their award of $3,000 from VMBA, along with $15,000 in matching funds from the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Vermont Trails program, BATS will be able to mitigate erosion concerns and make their trails more sustainable through improvements throughout the network.
Finally, the Velomont Trail Collective, who are driving one of the most exciting endeavors going on in Vermont mountain biking, applied for funds to help advance their goal of creating a sustainable, cooperative trail project that will run the entire length of our state from Massachusetts to Canada. In partnership with the Catamount Trail Association, Velomont plans to make improvements to an existing section of the Catamount Trail along the Somerset Reservoir in Stratton and Somerset, making the trail more bike-friendly, with better through access across wet areas and more year-round sustainability built into the trail. An award of $5,000 from VMBA, coupled with a match of $20,000 from the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Vermont Trails program, will help add to the already massive steps forward Velomont has already made in realizing this epic Vermont through-trail dream.
If you’ve been keeping score, that’s $48,654 of VMBA Trail Grant awards, PLUS $50,000 from the Northern Forest Center, to help our Chapters build and maintain trails, connect with their local communities, and sustainably plan for the future of these resources. Nearly $100,000 has been distributed to our hard-working and deserving Chapters to assist in continuing the growth and success of this sport in our state. Trails from Dover to Hinesburg, through projects partnering with schools, towns, private landowners, and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are being built, improved, made to last, and put in place to connect communities and riders of all abilities; and VMBA is doing all it can to support these efforts. We’re very proud of all that our Chapters accomplished in 2023, and are already looking forward to seeing what they have in store for 2024, and how we, as an organization, can help make these plans into realities. Your support of VMBA helps us to do so and helps each of our 29 Chapters dream big and do all they can for all riders in Vermont and beyond.