More people jammed into the banquet room at Stowes town hall Thursday night
than have attended many, many other hearings and events in that building in
recent memory. The attraction? Mountain bike trails.
The Vermont Mountain Bike Association and Stowe Mountain Bike Club are
teaming up to create some of the best mountain-bike riding in New England
right here in the Waterbury and Stowe areas. To be totally fair, extensive
excellent riding already exists on public and private land throughout the
area. But the two groups want to make it better, connecting all the trails
and making sure that the trails in their care are maintained at a high and
specific level built to dry quickly and prevent erosion and runoff
problems, among important standards.
Using their jargon, the two groups want to make Stowe-Waterbury a Ride
Center. Ride Centers are model trail systems that showcase the state of the
art in sustainable trail design and mountain biking experience and welcomes
users of all levels.
The local center would be the first in Vermont; only five other states have
ride centers. The proposed center would span Little River State Park in
Waterbury, the Cotton Brook area of the state forest, Bolton Valley Resort,
Trapp Family Lodge and portions of the state forest in Jeffersonville.
Further, the groups plan to connect to trail systems in the Mad River Valley
and Underhill. The vision is huge and fun and completely in synch with what
this area is all about, which is why 70 people turned out last week to show
support for the plan.
The meeting was largely informational, but most folks left dazzled by the
possibilities. A big bonus came this spring, when Stowe voters approved
$5,000 to develop a mountain bike trail-system master plan for the 513-acre
Adams Camp property wedged between Trapp Family Lodge land and Stowe
Mountain Resort. Trapps is developing its own private network of trails, but
also plans to build connectors across its 3,000 or more acres. With dozens
of generous landowners on board, cyclists will be able to crisscross the
patchwork of private and public land from Waterbury Center to Route 108,
from Stowe village to the Little River State Park on more than 70 miles of
beautifully maintained trails.
Nurturing this area as a mountain biking hub has tremendous economic
potential. Inns and hotels throughout the area are quite literally located
on the edge of some of the best off-road and single-track trail cycling in
the East. And its only going to get better.
Trapps has already figured it out, marketing directly to the cycling world
and offering a private network of trails, lessons and guided off-property
trips. Others, even without Trapps property and other resources, can also
work this niche.
Like everywhere else, Stowe is looking for the road to economic success.
There will not be one single panacea. Skiing and snowboarding drive winter
business, but it is events and holidays throughout the year that fill up the
town and boost local business. The road to Stowes prosperity will be many
little things, impelled by smart, industrious folks like new restaurateurs,
retailers and food purveyors, and like Rick Sokoloff, who runs the Stowe
Mountain Bike Club.
Like skiing and hiking, mountain biking is a sure, big draw, and it is one
of those little things.