An Effort To Open Vermont’s Snowmobile Trails

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(Host) The floods that ravaged Vermont’s roads and bridges this past spring and summer took a heavy toll on the state’s snowmobile trails. After months of mostly volunteer labor, spokesmen for the sport say almost all of Vermont’s 5,000-mile trail system will be ready for action when the season starts next month. But an important North-South link will be missing, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) There’s an air of anticipation at A to Z Snowmobile Sales and Service on Route 9 in Woodford. A group of dads and teens, up from Connecticut for the weekend, examine the reconditioned sleds arrayed out front. Chris Myslow of Hartford, Connecticut, is picking up his sled at the shop after its pre-season tune-up.

(Myslow) "As soon as there’s snow on the ground, we’ll be out there."

(Keese) Brian Quinn saw the YouTube clips of damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

(Quinn) "The fact that Vermont could work so hard with all the volunteers is just amazing."

(Keese) Jim Bogard is treasurer of the Deerfield Valley Stump jumpers. It’s one of 14 local clubs that maintain trails under contract with the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, or VAST. Bogard’s club grooms 60 miles in Wilmington, West Dover and Somerset, an area that saw heavy damage.

(Bogard) "In order to get us back in to operation in time for the winter we made a major effort, which required us to rent two excavators full time, one for a month, one for two months. And we had volunteer operators to run this equipment. Many people took vacations, unpaid time off from their jobs."

(Keese) Bogard says the effort pretty well drained the club’s treasury.

(Bogard) "But we will be 100 percent open and we’re very proud of that."

(Keese) Bryant Watson is executive director of VAST. He says the effort has been massive.

(Watson) "At this point, we are predicting that at least 95 percent of the trail system will be open for this winter."

(Keese) Watson says there’s also a bit of bad news for riders contemplating border-to-border treks from Massachusetts to Canada.

(Watson) "We have unfortunately one particular trail in the southern half of the Green Mountain National Forest that one portion of it will not be open for a 10-mile section. Unfortunately it’s our only connector between the southern half of the forest and the northern half of the forest."

(Keese) The damaged area is in Peru, south of Griffith Lake. Watson says his organization surveyed the hard-hit area with its engineers and offered to pay for the necessary repairs.

But the Green Mountain Forest said the area would have to wait until next year.

(Madrid) "We had to prioritize what we were going to do, because we couldn’t do it all."

(Keese) Colleen Madrid is the forest supervisor. She says the damage in that section of trail was so extensive that the entire area needs to be reviewed and re-engineered.

Madrid says the forest is happy work with VAST and other partners – with federal approval.

(Madrid) "It’s not just okay, go out there with a bulldozer and take care of the road."

(Keese) Madrid adds that border-to-border snowmobile travel is possible if riders take advantage of detours outside the forest.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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