In northern Vermont trying to smooth the ride for mountain biking
One of Ms. Long’s first steps as general manager, even before the landowners left, was to request a US Department of Agriculture-funded capacity study to try to identify the worst vulnerabilities. The study found that while trails were at 80 percent capacity, surrounding infrastructure such as parking lots, restrooms, and connecting roads were at 120 percent capacity. The club built new parking lots and trail links to keep drivers off the streets. They started a shuttle service from the town of East Burke to the most popular hiking trails. Through a Trails Committee of which Mr. Manges is a member, they reached out to landowners in a wider area and began building trails in nearby towns like East Haven, which now has its own local craft brewery. Dirty Church.
The federation also tried to put the responsibility on guest drivers, which is difficult in a holiday town where people may only be staying for a weekend. Ms Long said that after the trails closed, Kingdom Trails immediately shifted all of its marketing efforts to education. It adopted a maxim from a nearby network of trails, “Ride with gratitude,” to encourage good behavior and remind visitors that driving on pristine private land is a rare privilege – one not to screw up. Now, in addition to trail marker signs, there are also signs to drive in single file and respect the landowners.
Now that the border with Canada is open again, the whole city is eagerly awaiting what the summer bike season will bring. On a trail called Sidewinder, Mr. Manges and Tiaan van der Linde, another local instructor and biker, talk about issues like increasing traffic they are dealing with and how the Trail Association could have a more positive impact on the community . They want affordable housing; opportunities to train local children for jobs that keep them close; Paths that wind to towns like West Burke and spread the wealth.
They know you don’t just get beautiful trails with no people or an influx of tourist dollars with no crowds. And like riding a bike, you have to make a million micro-movements to stay on track over the long term. “We try to plan what we want instead of reacting to what happens to us, but you can’t predict the future,” said Mr van der Linde.
He points his bike back to the trailhead and we zoom around the Burkelyn Trail, green fields spreading into the distance below us as we pick up speed and ride with gratitude.
Heather Hansman is the author of and Associate Editor of the recently published book Powder Days Outdoors Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @hhansman.