‘Advocacy’ can be a pretty nebulous term, despite it being one of the primary activities of the VMBA Office. While it broadly refers to our efforts to preserve and expand access to trail-based recreation and secure the sustainable future of mountain biking in Vermont. More specifically, VMBA’s advocacy work involves various activities, such as raising awareness on specific issues, lobbying decision-makers, and mobilizing public support. One of the most vital institutions through which much of VMBA’s advocacy efforts are conducted is the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council.
What is the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council?
The Vermont Trails & Greenways Council, or ‘VTGC,’ was established in 1989 as a collective voice for trail stewardship organizations in Vermont. Since then, membership in the Council has grown to include community groups, local businesses, municipalities, and public land management agencies. In 1993, the VTGC was recognized in Vermont statute as an official advisory group to the Agency of Natural Resources that ‘shall advise’ on all matters related to recreational trails. In that capacity, the Council works very closely with Vermont Forests, Parks, & Recreation (FPR) to inform policy, guide legislation, and manage the collection of trails in Vermont officially designated for public access (known as the Vermont Trails System).
What makes the VTGC unique … and important
The VTGC counts over 50 members, who collectively represent 50,000+ individual members and steward close to 8,000 miles of trails. From the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) to the Green Mountain Club, from The Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA) to the Catamount Trail Association (CTA), VTGC members steward the 70% of public trails that are graciously hosted by private landowners. This broad coalition of organizations and its collective reach gives the VTGC a strong voice in the statehouse and beyond, and allows it to meaningfully influence activities that affect all of us who value sustainable outdoor recreation.
Who leads the Council, and how is it run?
The members of the VTGC annually elect a Board of Directors to effectively carry out the Council’s work. Presently, the 12-person Board includes leadership from trail stewardship organizations – including those noted above – as well as community, individual, and commercial representatives. VMBA currently Co-Chairs the Board and has been particularly active in helping advance the Council’s legislative priorities and fulfill its statutory role. As you might imagine, VMBA’s long-term advocacy goals are closely aligned with the Council’s, including an appropriate alternative to Act 250 for trails and incentives for private landowners who host public-access recreational, alongside nearer-term objectives like increased public funding for trail stewardship.
If you are interested in learning more, you can check out VMBA’s Executive Director, Nick Bennette, recent testimony with the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. He provided an overview of the Council and walked through some of the significant challenges & opportunities facing trail-based recreation. The Committee had some great questions, and we expect to see important legislation affecting recreation this session – stay tuned on that front.
You can also find out more information about the Council’s history, role, and membership at www.vermonttgc.org