State News

Grant brings statewide Velomont trail and connected huts system closer to reality

NBRC grant enables work on end-to-end mountain biking trail, hut network

The Velomont Trail Collective and Vermont Huts Association announced on Nov. 14 that they are the beneficiaries of a Northern Border Regional Commission grant to continue work on the Velomont Trail and Vermont Huts network, bringing the concept of an end-to-end, hut-to-hut mountain biking trail in Vermont closer to reality. The grant totals $526,375.48 and will fund construction of key sections (10  miles) of the Velomont Trail in the towns of Chittenden, Rochester and Hancock, as well as contribute towards the funding of a proposed year-round ADA accessible backcountry hut in Chittenden.

These sections are “shovel-ready” for construction of the single-track trail and will connect popular mountain bike trail networks in Rochester and Pittsfield.

The Velomont Trail Collective has partnered with the Vermont Huts Association and 21 trail organizations with the intent of doing for mountain biking what the Long Trail and Catamount Trail have done for hiking and cross-country skiing. When finished, the Velomont Trail and VT Hut network will connect 12 counties and 23 communities from Canada to Massachusetts. Huts will be strategically located along the trail for overnight use, making it ideal for multi-day adventures for beginners and experts alike.

“We are thrilled that the Northern Border Regional Commission approved our grant application,” said Angus McCusker, the Velomont Trail Collective executive director. “The Green Mountains have some of the best mountain bike trail networks in the world, and we have been dreaming of a trail connecting these networks for quite some time. This is the first section that will showcase how we want to connect Vermont’s towns, villages, and trail systems end-to-end for mountain bikers in Vermont.”

Vermont Huts Executive Director RJ Thompson said the future is bright for recreation in Vermont. “Covid-19 put a lot of stress on Vermont’s trail systems due to the rapid increase in demand, but it also highlighted how much we value our forests and the tremendous opportunities they provide for everyone,” said Thompson.

Green Mountain National Forest Recreation Program Manager Holly Knox echoed that sentiment. “This project has been developed by many voices who agree it will contribute to the social, economic, and physical wellbeing of our local communities and visiting publics. In addition to the compelling conversation regarding these benefits, the Forest Service is proud to be part of a state-wide initiative that connects more people, especially future generations, to their public lands and the critical need to be active stewards of our shared resources,” said Knox.

The grant award is the result of multiple organizations working together to reach a common goal. “The Trust for Public Land is thrilled to participate in this effort to expand recreation opportunities and improve access to the outdoors,” noted Kate Wanner, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “Our efforts to permanently conserve Rolston Rest, the largest private inholding in GMNF, will be leveraged by the new proposed hut and trail infrastructure improvements on Rolston Rest and national forest land to the north towards Pittsfield. Throughout Vermont, we’ve seen how public trail networks contribute to healthy and vibrant communities and improve quality of life.”

The trail and hut network could bring needed revenue to rural communities that have yet to reap the full benefit of tourism in the state. A recent economic analysis estimated what the entire trail and hut network could do for the state once complete. It found 16,000 – 36,000 annual visitors would use the Velomont Trail and its supporting huts. These users could generate an estimated $3.5 – $6.2 million in annual sales activity, resulting in $385,000 – $685,000 in tax revenue while supporting 51-91 full time jobs.

“We aim to build not just a trail and hut network, but an opportunity to enjoy all Vermont has to offer, including locally sourced meals and brews,” added McCusker.

“Since the Velomont Trail will pass through our rural towns and villages, riders can enjoy a late-morning breakfast at a local shop or snag a mid-afternoon snack before heading to their next backcountry destination,” said Thompson.

The grant is being administered through the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC).

The town of Killington, the Trust for Public Land, Vermont Huts Association, and Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance (R.A.S.T.A.) have pledged a combined $283,500 to match the NBRC grant.

“TRORC has been a proud partner in assisting the Vermont Huts Association in planning, and now implementation, of projects that have such amazing benefits including, being outdoors, improving public health and enhancing our region’s economic opportunities,” said Peter Gregory, TRORC executive director.

The NBRC grant and matching monies will help to fund a section of the central sector of the Velomont Trail, connecting Stowe to Killington, which will eventually total 162 miles of existing and new trail, connecting nine towns with 12 new backcountry huts at a total cost of approximately $4.8 million. The entire Velomont Trail, from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border, including 30-45 Vermont Huts, is estimated to cost $15 million.

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