$350,000… Thank You Vermont!

Stowe mountain bikers have battled the development overrunning their trail networks for years and for a time the Stowe trails looked like an endangered species.  With the death of rare specimens like Bear Claw and the Jersey Shore trails immenent extinction loomed large.

But today we have made amazing advancements. Not only are existing trails being largely preserved, they are multiplying.

And in a town where money talks, Mountain Bikers now have a voice! Mountain bikers, we are now on the brink of securing 260 acres on the existing trail network thanks to Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. What does this mean? Existing trails will be sheltered from development, new trails will be built, and mountain biking has been affirmed as a legitimate asset to the community, town, state, and our tourists!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: December 9, 2011
Contact: Heather Furman, Executive Director, Stowe Land Trust
Tel: 802-253-7221; email: heather@stowelandtrust.org

Stowe Land Trust awarded $350,000 for Cady Hill Forest

Stowe, VT – The atmosphere in the meeting room overlooking Lake Champlain was jubilant last week when the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) made the decision to award Stowe Land Trust $350,000 toward their purchase of the 260-acre Cady Hill Forest.

“This is an extremely pivotal moment and important step forward” said Heather Furman, SLT’s Executive Director. “The VHCB grant will provide a tremendous boost to our fundraising efforts, allowing us to complete the project.”

Cady Hill Forest is the land trust’s latest conservation effort. Located near the heart of Stowe village the Forest is a prime area for recreation and supports critical deer wintering habitat. The property has 11 miles of existing trail–nearly 20% of the total mountain biking network in the area. With Cady Hill Forest’s connection to the Vermont Ride Center, an effort led by the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VBMA) to put the Stowe–Waterbury area on the radar screens of mountain bikers from across the country, the project has generated a tremendous amount of local and regional support.

VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig said, “Conservation of the Cady Hill Forest is a key addition to the region’s recreational assets. What is developing in the Stowe-Waterbury area is a world-class trail network that will draw thousands of tourists and act as an economic engine for area businesses.”

Patrick Kell, Executive Director of VBMA who was in attendance at the VHCB meeting, emphasized the importance of the acquisition to their effort. “The trails on Cady Hill are known as some of the best in the area; there will never be an alternative location as attractive and as accessible to already established tourism infrastructure near the heart of the community,” Kell said.

The existing 65- mile trail network, spanning from the Perry Hill area of Putman State Forest and Little River State Park to Stowe’s Adams Camp land and Sterling Valley, is receiving national recognition. Recent efforts to connect Little River State Park to the Cotton Brook area will make it possible to ride, run, walk or hike from Waterbury to Stowe without ever touching a road.

Bob Butler, a Selectboard member from the Town of Waterbury was thoughtful in his presentation to the Board. “This is a good project for the Town of Waterbury,” said Butler. “Waterbury’s ability to realize the economic benefits of mountain biking-related tourism depends on the success of an integrated, marketable network of trails.”

Cady Hill Forest adds immeasurably to the Ride Center and the opportunities for economic benefit, and a new access point will be created to anchor the Ride Center in Stowe village. Mountain biking, says Kell, provides a new brand of tourism that is not as weather-dependent as skiing and is available for a full three seasons throughout the year. Comparable models like Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont have seen in excess of 35,000 mountain bike visitors per summer with a combined annual impact to the local economy of nearly $4 million.

In a written letter of support for the project, Megan Smith, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism, was enthusiastic in her endorsement saying, “the protection of Cady Hill Forest will…provide vital connectivity with many existing trails to downtown tourism infrastructure.”

Local State Representative Heidi Scheuermann, a member of Stowe Land Trust, endorsed the project in a letter of support saying, “Cady Hill Forest is critical to providing access to [the trail] network and promoting the connection to the downtown. SLT is a huge asset to this town… and when you come for money for projects – to the town or the state – it is done after a great deal of thought and important analysis. That is the reason you have been so successful.”

Once purchased, Cady Hill Forest will be added to the adjacent 60-acre Macutchan Forest already owned by the Town. Open and available to all forms of non-motorized recreation, the total town forest land will comprise over 320 acres. In addition to the $350,000 grant from VHCB, the Town of Stowe has agreed to put $288,000 in its FY’13 Capital budget which will be voted on at Town Meeting in March, 2012. Adam Davis, one of Stowe’s Selectboard members who supports the project said, “This is a great opportunity to set aside this land for recreation which includes hiking, biking and hunting. I see this as a great benefit for the town of Stowe as well as the State of Vermont for all to enjoy.”

Stowe Land Trust has a scheduled closing date of May 31, 2011 at which time SLT will donate the property to the Town. The Town will then use part of the Capital budget funds to build a 20 car parking on the Mountain Road across from Springer-Miller Systems. The lot has already received DRB approval. Stowe Land Trust will raise the remaining $887,000 through private foundations, several of which are pending, and a local fundraising campaign scheduled to begin in early 2012.

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