Regional Summits Need MTBers

Ryan Bent

Whew…. what a year. A lot has happened with VMBA, chapters and state leadership in 2017. The future looks incredibly bright. VMBA’s VOICe initiative has united our best local businesses around their enthusiasm for Vermont’s trail infrastructure. These partners understand that a volunteer force is largely responsible for building the trails that are driving a statewide discussion focused on the potential of Vermont’s outdoor economy.

VMBA has successfully developed a sustainable bridge between commercial enterprise and trail-based nonprofits. As a result of their participation, VMBA’s advocacy message has evolved to incorporate the desires of employers eager to share Vermont’s amazing lifestyle as a key element in recruiting top level talent to our little corner of the world. As such, VMBA will continue to seek trail expansion on public land, which will help to absorb increases in participation and to help keep local only trails a core part of VT riding. If we all commit to productively participating in the ongoing conversation, it all can be accomplished.

VMBA isn’t alone in this effort. The Department of Forest, Parks & Recreation, through an executive order, launched the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) in June. The steering committee is gathering as much feedback as possible this year. The goal is coalesce this feedback into a list of recommendations to the Governor moving forward. VOREC is an amazing opportunity for mountain bikers in Vermont. Yes, it is a collaborative focused on the economics of outdoor recreation. However, the economics of outdoor recreation in Vermont start and end with you – the volunteer and member. VMBA is fully behind VOREC’s efforts and encourages you to participate in the next steps.

This fall VOREC will be hosting seven regional summits. Each of these sessions is designed to do one thing – listen to you. What gets shared during these meetings will get attention moving forward. The state has shown a willingness and ability to make changes in support of outdoor recreation in Vermont. The summits are more evidence of that commitment. VMBA encourages you to attend as many of the summits as possible. There are a couple things to keep in mind if you do attend. First, show up in force, but be polite, patient and willing to entertain new kinds of partnerships with various user groups. Also, all types of recreationist are welcome to this conversation (ATVers, anglers, equestrians, birders, hunters, etc.). Be open to listening to their perspectives.

From an advocacy perspective, VMBA hopes that you’ll consider sharing your thoughts on the following items during each session:

  • Shift private land use regulations in a way that supports more access for chapters to expand our networks – are you a landowner? What are your main concerns?
  • Develop state driven funding mechanisms that reflect Vermont’s economic growth attributed to the trails in support of the volunteer force making it all possible – recreation in VT accounts for $5.5 billion annually
  • Create state land, long-range trail expansion commitments to Vermonters to proactively absorb increasing levels of participation due to VOREC’s success
  • Support the trail-based nonprofits that are already effectively building/maintaining trails instead of developing duplicative roles in state government

There are multiple other items under consideration and you likely have others of your own. These three in particular are foundationally critical to VOREC’s success. Driving an economy based on outdoor recreation isn’t sustainable if it isn’t accompanied by serious support for trails.

Summit Schedule:

  • Tuesday, September 12th: The Best Western, 45 Blush Hill Rd, Waterbury, VT 05676. 6-8 pm.
  • Monday, September 25th: Island Pond Town Hall, 49 Mill St, Island Pond, VT 05846. 6-8 pm.
  • Tuesday, October 3rd: Community College of Vermont, 60 West St, Rutland, VT 05701. 6-8 pm.
  • Tuesday, October 10th: City Hall, 100 North Main Street, St. Albans, VT 05478. 6-8 pm.
  • Monday, October 16th: The Evening Star Grange 1008 East-West Rd, East Dummerston, VT 05346. 6-8 pm.
  • Monday, October 23rd: Hartford Town Hall 171 Bridge St White River Junction, VT 05001. 6-8 pm.
  • Tuesday, October 24th: The West Mountain Inn, 144 W. Mountain Inn Rd, Arlington, VT 05250. 6-8 pm.