VMBA reached out to the gubernatorial candidates last month and asked for their perspective on the future of outdoor recreation in Vermont, mountain biking in particular. Three of the top candidates took the opportunity to speak to you – the riders. We asked the candidates three questions. Their responses are listed under each question below. Enjoy and don’t forget to vote tomorrow!
Question #1 – Trails have united communities in Vermont for decades. In most circumstances, our trail infrastructure is built and maintained by passionate volunteers. This skilled and tireless group of people is interested in state leadership that will support their efforts and thoughtfully embrace the future of outdoor recreation in Vermont. If elected, what ideas do you have to evolve state government to better support the progress of state outdoor nonprofit organizations in Vermont?
Vermont’s outdoor recreation sector is a real asset to the state; it’s a big part of what draws visitors and new residents, and of what makes our quality of life the best in the nation. State government should be an active stakeholder in protecting this statewide asset. Government should be coordinating with nonprofit organizations to leverage the assets that we have, including our park system and trails network. In addition to aggregating existing promotional materials and working in partnership to develop materials that are needed but do not yet exist, we should work to provide comprehensive statewide maps and put them online as a resource for every visitor, so they can seamlessly participate in the full range of outdoor activities that are available. As governor, I would also ensure that state government works with our great volunteer and nonprofit organizations to identify needs and opportunities to support and grow our outdoor recreational sector.
First, I want to thank the hard work and dedication from volunteers like you who have been pivotal in making Vermont such a highly regarded mountain bike and outdoor recreation community. Mountain biking and outdoor recreation are an important economic engine for the state. As governor I look forward to working directly with all of you to provide the support you need to continue to grow the sport of mountain biking and other outdoor recreation opportunities in Vermont.
I am the only candidate for governor who has made expanding and promoting outdoor recreation a priority. My plan, VTOUTDOORS, will expand year-round outdoor recreation, including supporting the construction of new mountain bike trails and a hut system for biking, hiking and backcountry skiing. Outdoor recreation is core to Vermont’s heritage, and under my leadership it will be a critical part of the Vermont brand and our economy. All my life I’ve been an outdoorswoman. I will champion leading-edge recreational opportunities.
My VTOUTDOORS plan includes:
Expand Vermont’s world-class trail networks. As Secretary of Transportation and as a member of Revitalizing Waterbury, I partnered with VMBA, Stowe Mountain Bike Club, Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and Green Mountain Club to enhance hiking and biking. In my home town of Waterbury, I have seen first hand the positive impact that mountain biking and outdoor recreation can have on our communities. I will work to expand these opportunities within Vermont. In addition, my vision is to have an integrated statewide mountain bike trail system. My administration will work with VMBA and Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to link up existing trail networks. I will also partner to help conserve the final six miles of the 273-mile Long Trail, a Vermont jewel.
Promote outdoor recreation & expand hut systems. VTOUTDOORS will build upon the success of VMBA’s statewide mountain bike map to create a Vermont outdoor recreation map, highlighting our great biking, paddling, hiking, and skiing. I will also have the State partner to promote hut and yurt systems for skiing, hiking and biking, similar to the popular 80-mile long Maine Huts & Trails system. State parks can partner and host these trail networks to promote and attract outdoor recreation and tourism.
Throughout my career as a public servant, I’ve approached each problem by listening, learning, and then leading. As Governor, I will direct relevant state agencies to do exactly that. We need to draw upon agencies and departments throughout state government to coordinate with nonprofit organizations that maintain trail infrastructure. This includes recognizing the fundamental interdependencies between trail infrastructure and our economy. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Agency of Natural Resources must be partners to these nonprofit organizations. In particular, the Department of Tourism and Marketing, as well as the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, can serve as resources and advocates for the nonprofit recreation and trail infrastructure community. These agencies and departments must listen and learn from this community, and then lead through a collaborative partnership. As Governor, I will facilitate this approach and culture change in Montpelier.
QUESTION #2 – A conversation focused on bringing the outdoor industry back to Vermont has recently regained traction. A strong outdoor recreation infrastructure will play a key role in highlighting the benefits of living in Vermont, particularly to prospective employees and our appeal to tourists. If elected, how do you envision new commercial enterprise partnering with Vermont outdoor recreation nonprofits? What measures will you take to streamline the relationship between state land managers and nonprofit trail organizations to facilitate our capacity to match growing demand for trail resources?
Having worked in community relations projects that involved private landowners for the last 8.5 years during my time at Google, I know it takes person to person contact and direct outreach to make these efforts a success. My team will set out each year with a specific objective — developed with input and feedback from the nonprofit and volunteer groups that are expert in this area — for connecting various trails. We need this kind of public-private partnership in order to best use our resources and focus concurrent energy in a targeted way that best meets the real need.
We must continue to grow our trail networks and be a world class outdoor recreation destination, and market Vermont sports in modern and exciting manner that makes the state appealing to both enthusiasts and businesses. This is critical to attracting talented individuals and business to the state.
Empower volunteer organizations. My administration will be proactive in continuing to build bridges and working partnerships between our volunteer stewards and our state land managers. Make Vermont a hub of the outdoor sports economy by recruiting outdoor businesses to Vermont. The Minter administration will energetically pursue outdoor-oriented industries and encourage them to relocate in Vermont, where our schools and environment will attract young active employees. My administration will also designate an Outdoor Recreation Director at the state level to serve as a single point of contact for outdoor businesses interested in Vermont, and young entrepreneurs hoping to break into this booming industry.
Throughout my campaign, I’ve talked a lot about the need to target and attract Vermont’s working age population from 25 to 45 years of age. While this age category makes up the majority of our workforce and contributes to both our local economy and state revenue, it also is the same group that participates in outdoor activities and recreation. We need to target this group by marketing Vermont as a place to live, work, play and raise a family. While there will be clear economic gains to attracting this demographic group, the recreation community will also be enhanced. There are numerous opportunities for the Department of Tourism and Marketing to utilize this marketing message, and I will support these types of approaches as Governor. The Department can also play a role in fostering relationships between commercial enterprises looking for workers in this age group and recreation nonprofits searching for outdoor enthusiasts in this same age category. Let’s encourage entrepreneurs to start outdoor recreation business, which can partner from nonprofits who would also benefit from increased recreational traffic. Finally, as Governor, I will create a Government Modernization and Efficiency Team on day one of my administration. The responsibility of this team will be to look for ways in which government agencies and departments can realize efficiencies, streamline operations, and enhance communication. This team will play a crucial role in identifying areas within state government that can more effectively foster communication between state land managers and nonprofit organizations. This includes streamlining operations to make relevant areas of state government easier for the recreation community to navigate through, and ensuring that state government is properly servicing and helping the outdoor community rather than acting as a hurdle for them to have to jump over.
Question #3 – Can you tell us about how you have personally supported the growth of outdoor recreation in Vermont during your time in Montpelier? As you know, mountain biking has generated significant momentum recently. In your opinion, how can this momentum enjoy continued meaningful support from state leadership?
We know that outdoor recreation, including mountain biking, is a major draw to our state, both in terms of tourists and new residents who move here to take advantage of our unique quality of life. I’m proud of the work I did during my time in the state senate to help support the development of the Catamount trail for cross country skiing, as well as efforts to connect bike trails through bridge infrastructure improvements and land acquisition. Just like I did then, as governor, I would support providing state funding to facilitate and support working with landowners to make our trail system the best in the nation. We should also be telling the great story of our mountain biking and outdoor recreation, in general, as part of our comprehensive tourism offerings and in the relocation promotional materials that are used to promote Vermont to newcomers to our great state.
As a legislator and Vermont’s Secretary of Transportation I have actively supported outdoor activities in Vermont. I have:
- Worked with VMBA and Stowe Mountain Bike Club and the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation to help advance the utilization of Little River State Park by mountain bikers with the aim of connecting the mountain bike trail networks of Stowe and Waterbury
- Supported Local Motion and cycling in general
- Worked with the Green Mountain Club to help facilitate access through Federal Highway Admin. & railroad land
- Helped acquire funds and permits for VAST and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
- Advocated for transportation funding for bike and pedestrian facilities
- Supported the development of cycling maps and an on-road cycling plan
- Helped expand state highway shoulders by 1 foot for cyclists
- Instituted a policy of sweeping roads and shoulders in the spring to make them safe for bicyclists
The outdoors are a personal passion of mine. I have been exploring Vermont’s outdoors since I was a small child. Together with my family and my husband David Goodman (author of the AMC backcountry skiing guidebook, Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast), we have been exploring the high mountains of Vermont and the Northeast on skis, bikes, canoes, and by foot. As governor, I will be an ambassador for Vermont’s world-class outdoors. I will walk the walk – and ski, ride, paddle and hike – to revitalize our outdoor recreation opportunities and outdoor industry and make sure we are a top destination for anyone and any business looking for adventure.”
As a donor to the Vermont Mountain Biking Association, I am personally very invested in Vermont’s outdoor recreation opportunities. As Chair of the Senate Institutions Committee in 2005, I worked with lawmakers of all parties to create a Recreational and Educational Facilities Grant as part of the Capital Bill. The provision provided grants to municipalities and nonprofits for costs related to the development of community recreational opportunities. As Governor, I would continue to advocate for similar opportunities to enhance and support our recreation community. On a broader level, I am pleased to see that mountain biking is gaining popularity, as Vermont offers prime trails with room for more. However, local control is key when expanding outdoor recreation. What’s best for one community is not best for all and trail development should be decided on locally. After all, then the community is on board, they have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed and grow, and are also more likely to use it themselves. Such an approach will create both community gathering points and tourist destinations, two key components of vibrant communities. ###
VMBA would like to thank the candidates for taking the time to respond to these questions. The primary is tomorrow – get out and VOTE!