The VT Trails and Greenways Council is working to coordinate a unified message to state leadership regarding Act 250 and its impact on trails, landowners and municipalities.
In brief, Act 250 is land use and development law that has meant a lot to Vermont since its inception in 1970. We’ve learned a lot in 50 years and it’s time to evaluate how the law intersects with trails.
It’s important that we send a clear massage that acknowledges the role Act 250 plays in keeping Vermont beautiful, but also encourages the commission to consider its application relative to landowners and trails going forward. Act 250 for many landowners is a deal breaker. Private land accounts for over 70% of Vermont – we need to actively advocate for our landowners.
The Trails and Greenways will dig into the specifics of definitions, rules and regulations. What we’re seeking from you is general support and input that highlights the positive role of trails in Vermont.
The Agency of Natural Resources is hosting two more regional summits to gather input about about Act 250, including its impact on trails in Vermont. The Commission on Act 250: “The Next 50 Years” was established by the Vermont Legislature to work on modernizing Act 250. It’s very important that the the Commission hear voices of the trails and outdoor recreation community during this process.
VMBA and the Council fully supports the work of the Commission as conservation and environmental protection are core values for all of us. However, we are also concerned because Act 250 regulation can and has created confusion, expensive and time consuming obstacles to improving and maintaining trails.
It is critical that any potential reforms consider the irreplaceable benefits of Vermont trails. We must inform our legislators and state leadership considering these reforms and how important it is to support rather than obstruct the landowners, towns, nonprofits and volunteers doing virtually all of the trail infrastructure work for the public good.
Over 70% of our trails are hosted and maintained on private land and maintained with over 100,000 annual volunteer hours. We hope all trail advocates, including our generous landowners and volunteers can make it to a forum.
There are two regional summits remaining:
* Rutland – Sept. 5 – 6-8 pm, Franklin Conference Center
* Burlington Sept. 12 – 6-8 pm, Burlington Elks Lodge, 925 North Ave
Will will update everyone on physical locations as soon as the commission makes them available.
At a summit or through the online survey (link included below), please share all of your reasons for supporting trails as invaluable pathways to better health, rural economic stability and conservation in Vermont. Please also consider highlighting some of the following information:
* Cumbersome permitting fees attached to “development” are a deal breaker for nonprofits. Our trail infrastructure is not built by volunteers for commercial purposes
* Trail organizations and users are conservationists, completely dedicated to environmentally friendly and sustainable trails
* Over 70% of trails are on private land – we need regulation that will support their generosity and encourage even more trails and conservation
* Trails have a low environmental impact with great benefits, including the inspiration of greater conservation and environmental protection. Therefore, trails should not be considered “development”
and lumped into the same regulation categories as other construction projects
* Currently, Act 250 limits Vermont’s ability to fully realize the benefits that could come with greater support for trails and outdoor recreation
* Trails and outdoor recreation not only make Vermonters healthier with over 72% of Vermonters participating, but they also provide over 50 thousand, or roughly 1 in 7, of the jobs in Vermont.
(Outdoor Industry Association)