Vermont summer is in full swing, and each weekend we are left with memories of playing outside with our friends, enjoying the sunshine and all the hiking, biking, climbing, and paddling areas Vermont has to offer. This isn’t unusual for this time of year, but we are extra grateful for our outdoor recreation opportunities for 2020.
With the rise of COVID-19 during the spring, we saw all our favorite trail networks and crags closing down. This was in everyone’s best efforts to protect fellow recreators from the virus, and protect the trails from erosion caused by over-use during mud season. But with the closures came uncertainty: when would these recreation zones open again, if at all?
We (and most other Vermonters) were overjoyed when the governor deemed it safe to play outside once more. But we wouldn’t be so lucky without the hard work from our local recreation and stewardship nonprofits.
GREEN MOUNTAIN CLUB
We all have our favorite hikes in Vermont: Mount Mansfield, Camels Hump, Mount Abe, etc. etc. And thru-hiking the Long Trail is on most of our staff’s bucket lists for those of us who haven’t done so already. But these beloved day hikes and trails would be in sorry states if it weren’t for the hard work of the Green Mountain Club. From building and maintaining trail puncheons to cleaning out full privies, these folks make hiking in our state accessible, sustainable, and fun.
The GMC continues to be a valuable resource for Leave No Trace education. Our mission is to outfit our community with the gear they need to enjoy the outdoors. But with so many folks getting after it outside, we need to be cognizant of how our adventures affect the land. By educating folks about the importance of carrying out trash, respecting wildlife, and more, the GMC is taking their trail stewardship to the next level.
You can visit the Green Mountain Club Headquarters in Waterbury, VT to learn more about all the great work they do. They also host tons of group hikes and other events and volunteer days throughout the summer, so keep an eye on the schedule!
VERMONT MOUNTAIN BIKE ASSOCIATION
The sport of mountain biking has EXPLODED in the last ten years in our tiny state, and we largely have the Vermont Mountain Bike Association to thank for that! Comprising 29 chapters that collectively maintain over one thousand miles of trails, VMBA has been pivotal in the impressive development of Vermont’s mountain bike scene. Between awarding grants to build new trails, advocating for mountain biking in the statehouse, and hosting volunteer events, these folks are the reason Vermont is a mountain bike paradise!
VMBA and its chapters build and maintain sustainable bike trails, but they also do their part to be good land stewards. Riding muddy trails can cause erosion to and additional maintenance of the trails we love. To ensure trails remain in good condition, the chapters work together to educate riders about the importance of walking wet sections of trail and other Leave No Trace principles.
Each VMBA chapter hosts volunteer days where you can get down and dirty to help build and maintain trails (and more than likely enjoy a well-deserved beer after). You can learn more about each chapters’ work here and follow their calendars of events for volunteer opportunities, group rides, and more bike fun!
If you have a climbing project in Vermont, it is more than likely maintained by the folks of CRAG-VT. From Smuggs to Upper West in Bolton, CRAG works with the state, landowners, and locals to keep all your favorite crags open for sending. This organization is tireless when it comes to securing new areas to climb. One recent (and major) accomplishment is the Bolton Dome. After being closed to climbers for decades, CRAG successfully worked with landowners and municipalities to make it available once more!
They may be hardcore climbers, but CRAG cares about our environment too. They work hard to reduce environmental impacts by conducting trail maintenance, volunteer clean-ups, and producing educational materials. They even keep tabs on nesting falcons to ensure they remain undisturbed by climbers!
Besides protecting climbing areas and the natural areas that contain them, CRAG-VT also hosts a big event each September: the Vermont Climbing Festival. If you haven’t gotten your tickets already for this weekend of climbing and fun, you can do so here!
NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL
One of our favorite things about Vermont are all the lakes, ponds, and rivers that you can spend hours floating on. But did you know there is also a 700-mile-long paddle trail that runs right through our state? Consisting of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities, and 65 portages, 174 miles of this trail is in Vermont. And the Northern Forest Canoe Trail are the folks that keep it going!
A major part of the NFCT’s mission is stewardship. They maintain the trail itself as well as the essential landowner relationships that enable us to travel safely on public waterways. They even have stewardship internships available and an adopt-a-trail program! These stewards open existing campsites, replace trail markers, and inspect access areas and portage paths to keep your paddling adventures accessible and fun. Want to join in on their efforts? They host group paddles, volunteer days, and other fundraising events on the regular. You can stay up to date on those here.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
We’re inspired by all the work these organizations perform to keep our outdoor recreation areas healthy and thriving. And there are lots of ways we can all be advocates for their efforts!
Become a member! Each of these nonprofits’ work wouldn’t be possible without folks like us joining their organizations. Become an annual member to aid in their work and join amazing like-minded communities! Links to each membership page are below:
Practice Leave No Trace on all your adventures. Always carry out your trash (yes, even orange peels!), pick up your dog’s poop, leave sites the way you found them, don’t feed the bears.
Trail etiquette. Be polite to others you see. Did you know that uphill hikers and bikers have the right of way? And that mountain bikers should yield to others using the trail for a different sport (trail running, horseback riding)? These principles exist for all our safety and to make everyone’s experience pleasant, so don’t be a jerk!
Speak up! If you see misuse, address it! Politely let that fellow hiker on the trail know that walking through muddy sections is harmful to the trail. Encourage your friends not to mountain bike on closed trails. If your climbing partner wants to climb on that cliff with nesting falcons, suggest a different crag. We can empower each other to remain respectful to the trails!
We outdoor enthusiasts have so much to thank these (and tons more!) nonprofits who protect the natural places we love to recreate in. We are especially grateful for these organizations since the trails have opened up, and owe it to them and to the land to come together and be the best environmental stewards we can be. From picking up that empty beer can you hiked past, to coming out and volunteering for a trail day, there are tons of little things we can do and enable others to do too! Let’s work together to keep Vermont happy and healthy.