WOODFORD, Vt. -- The U.S. Forest Service aims to improve the trail system within the 624-square-mile Green Mountain National Forest in southwestern Vermont.
This week at the Prospect Mountain ski lodge, more than 30 Vermonters provided input on trail management, trail uses and suggestions for future trails. The meeting is one of six being held across Vermont in August and September to develop the Forest Service's Comprehensive Trail Strategy plan.
Through this process, the Forest Service aims to come up with a trail system it can sustain. The Green Mountain National Forest, which begins at Vermont's border with Berkshire County in Massachusetts, comprises half of the state's public lands and accounts for 6 percent of its land area.
At the ski lodge, citizens marked up maps displaying trails for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, bicycling, and horseback riding, as well as overall maps of entire trail systems. They also wrote comments.
Forest Service Ranger Bill Jackson sought input on trails that had become impassable, ideas for new trail connections, redundant trails, and which ones were popular or unpopular.
"Trails are so important to the Forest Service, and they're so important to the public," said Jackson. "Trails are how the public accesses the forest. [The Green Mountain National Forest is] a well-loved forest, with a lot of advocates and a lot of trail users who love to come to this forest.
The Forest Service is prepared to make adjustments to the trail system, develop ways to evaluate trail issues, link trails to those on adjacent public lands, and track trail locations and conditions, among other things.
Most participants at the Prospect Mountain meeting said they hiked and cross-country ski in the Green Mountain National Forest.
Members of a local snowmobile club also attended. Woodford SnoBusters President Mark Tilley said the club was interested in creating a collaborative effort to maintain the trails. Club members put in upward of 800 volunteer hours preparing the snowmobiling trails for use every year, Tilley said.
"We don't want trails that are under the ‘zero maintenance' plan," said Jackson, "but in some cases, that's what we have. Let's be honest, our resources are limited."
Jackson also mentioned that standards for construction on trails have increased over the years, meaning that bridges, for example, are much more expensive to build than they were in the past, which can be limit what the Forest Service can do on certain trails.
For those who are interested in submitting comments about GMNF trails to the Forest Service, but are unable to attend the meetings and submit them in person, the Forest Service is accepting emails with the subject line "Comprehensive Trail Strategy Comment" at comments-eastern-green-mtn-finger-lakes@ fs.fed.us. They may also be faxed to 802-747-6766.
For more information about the project, visit www.fs.usda.gov/greenmountain.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB