Symposium offers skills, knowledge
Building, maintaining and managing trails isn't easy or cheap. There's the need to organize a group of people to perform the back-breaking labor whether it's putting in a trail, or maintaining one that needs work. Then there are the ever present needs for materials and tools that require money, which is always in short supply.
So whether you or your group is looking to build a section of trail, or simply maintain one that is already on the ground, it makes sense to learn how to do it right.
It also wouldn't hurt to figure out ways to obtain funding to help defray the expenses a little.
The Vermont Trails and Greenways Council's third annual Vermont Trails Symposium will send you home with a better knowledge of both issues.
The symposium will be held at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 24 at the Kehoe Education Center at Lake Bomoseen.
Aimed at trail managers, trail builders, land managers and trail enthusiasts, the seminar will feature workshops on a variety of topics including trail permitting, design, fundraising and maintenance.
"The symposium will be a great opportunity to learn how to get connected with organizations supporting our state's trail systems, and build the skills necessary to start new projects in your community," said Danny Hale, chairman of the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council, in a news release.
The event will last all day with workshops slated from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Following dinner, evening activities include "A Walk on the Wild Side," and a mixer and project share.
Some workshops will take place at the same time, but each will be offered in the morning and afternoon preventing participants from missing any of the offerings.
The Vermont Trails and Greenways Council, established by statute, plans for the future of Vermont's recreational activities, promotes the development and maintenance of trails, coordinates public and private trail efforts, encourages education programs, and recommends how funds will be allocated for Vermont's trail-funding programs.
A greenway is a natural corridor established to promote conservation along natural corridors or that link conserved areas.
Deciding where money will be allocated is one of the key duties the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council.
Walter Opuszynski, of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, serves as the secretary of the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council.
Opuszynski said federal and state money dedicated to recreation is allocated through grants, but there is never enough to go around.
"There's always much more need and demand for the money then there is money," Opuszynski said. "So there has to be a process to see how the money gets allocated."
This is the third year for the symposium.
Opuszynski said there were about 25 people the first year in Richmond, followed by 45 people last year at the event held at the Groton State Forest.
He said he expects about 50 people to attend this year, but had no numbers on registered attendees yet.
"We've been slowly increasing as word is getting out there," Opuszynski said.
The increased interest is likely a result of a growing demand for recreation trails and ways to fund them.
The Vermont Trails and Greenways Council is an interesting group in that it works for both motorized and nonmotorized recreation groups, along with community organizations and public land managers among others.
Some of the funding the group divvies up comes from a tax on fuels used by four-wheelers, snowmobiles and such machines.
Yet, the money is used for trails benefiting everyone.
According to the council's bylaws, the group has representatives from various factions of the recreation community.
"Just about any user group you can think of," Opuszynski said. "Early on, there was more nonmotorized than motorized. But it is becoming more diverse. We try to represent every user group around the table."
The agenda for the seminar shows some of that diversity with presenters from the Vermont All-Terrain Vehicles Sportsman's Association, the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation, Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
Attendees will learn skills and strategies for building and maintaining trails that will help those trails survive the ravages of Mother Nature.
"Sometimes you can design a trail, or build trail structures that won't need maintenance for 15 years, or build a trail that won't be as prone to erosion," Opuszynski said, adding that if a trail isn't constructed properly, erosion could wipe away all the hard work.
"You'll lose your trail and at the same time you're adding sediment to the watershed," Opuszynski said.
While the program sounds like it is aimed at those who build trails, Opuszynski said it is aimed at a wider audience.
"Everybody from local conservation commissions who are building trails in their town, to people who work on the Long Trail, to people who manage land," Opuszynski said.
For more information, log on to www.vermonttrailsandgreenways.org or call Walter Opuszynski, at 498-4506.
Darren Marcy is a local outdoor enthusiast. His Web site is www.DarrenMarcy.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.