By Katy Savage
Consultants are gathering community feedback for the new Velomont Trail throughout the state with the help of a $140,000 Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) grant.
The consultants from SE Group in Burlington are holding eight open houses to understand concerns pertaining to trail use, conservation and trail design.
“I think the opportunity to build a brand new experience all the way across the board is just exciting,” said Dayton Crites, a senior outdoor recreation planner for SE Group. “I think something like this isn’t just about trails outside their backyard, it’s something for businesses to be involved in.”
The vision is to create an end-to-end mountain bike trail that extends the length of the state and covers about 485 miles with huts along the way for overnight users. Trail building started in 2019 in Rochester and is expected to take about a decade to finish.
“We really want to get a trail that reaches everybody,” Crites said, explaining so far people have been most concerned about accessibility.
Multiple state agencies, including Green Mountain National Forest and state parks are working collaboratively on the project.
“We really want to zoom out a little bit and hear from members of the community who are not in the project and give them the opportunity to voice any concerns or just ask questions about elements of the trail and the hut network and really just help inform our decision making going forward,” said RJ Thompson, the executive director of Vermont Huts Association.
Phase one of the Velomont will connect Brattleboro and the southern border to the Stratton area. Phase two will connect the Mendon area to Warren and the final phase will connect the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail between Morrisville and St. Johnsbury.
There are 13 huts in the state so far. The goal is to have one every 10-15 miles of the Velomont Trail, with 30-45 once complete.
The organizers have received around $7 million in federal and state grants so far. They expect the total project will cost around $20 million.
A 2020 economic impact report found that Velomont could have a $6.2 million annual economic impact, creating 91 full-time jobs and $685,000 in tax revenue.
Though the trail will extend the entire length of the state, the consultants predict only 1-2% of users will use the trail for that purpose. An estimated 20% of users will use the trail overnight.
The open houses have been held at mountain bike trailheads around the state and have been well attended with refreshments provided. The last open house is scheduled for the St. Johnsbury welcome center Oct. 10 at 6 p.m.
“The connectivity element of the vision encompasses not only mountain bike connectivity, but also local mobility connected from a broader bicycle/pedestrian/transportation context and supports many other elements of the vision framework such as raising local quality of life and access to outdoors,” the consultants said in documents.
Results of the study are expected later this year. The results will be used to develop a master plan for the trail network.