Mountain Bike Reviews Forum banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,674 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The new act 250 bill being debated keeps pushing for exemption for recreation trails from the environmental review process that has kept VT's character somewhat intact for decades.

It's impossible to imagine the ANR, or the FP and R, who actively market and monetize these trail systems, can also serve as a regulatory agency for the same resources, as the NRB has done for years.

It is noteworthy that the folks who have placed themselves within the various 501c3s lobbying for this exemption are folks like VMBA directors, board members, professional trail developers, and others with financial interests in marketing and developing trail systems in Vt.

A resource, like the KT, who's act 250 review is on hold until the new Act 250 bill is settled, would be exempt from the review process. This one location draws 135,000 visitors a year, 90 percent from out of state, to a town of 5000 ppl. Perry Hill, 20,000 last year. Consider the rest of the state tourism business, we're looking at land use for millions of people a season exempt.

The real joke here is that the purpose of amending Act 250 this year is to STRENGTHEN protections for the environment. At the same time they are attempting to exempt recreational trail development, the purpose of which has been explicitly stated for decades now as economic in nature.

This debacle is just another clear example of the duplicitous nature of Vt's false progressives giving lip service to agendas they have no intention of acting on with any real efficacy. There is not another industry in the state exempt from act 250 review that is operating on the same scale as commercial trail use and development. We are talking about an explosion heavy equipment construction in our town forests, state and national parks exempt from independent environmental review, and instead handed over to the agencies, and in fact the very individuals, that are simultaneously marketing these resources for their own personal financial gains, and social status.

Fortunately, some representatives see this obvious contradiction and are giving some resistance. This debate is happening now. Funny how it's basically invisible. You'd think organizations who manage trail systems like VMBA, GMC, etc, etc, would be encouraging debate, and public input but it's not about transparency. It's about self-appointed experts, who have stacked the boards of these groups, pushing their agendas as if they represent all of us. The less you know, the better for them. These groups represent their personal interests, the interests of capital investors in the state, and the interests of the tourism industry, not the environmental, and cultural interests of our communities.

Now is the time to get involved, if you feel like you have a dog in this fight.

https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/all/2020/House
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
What about forestry, Dave? It is nearly entirely exempt from environmental restrictions imposed on other industries, but it is overseen by trained, educated foresters who presumably have the best intentions. That said, they are still the folks who would make money off of continued logging. So there is an example where it sort of works. You get terrible clear cuts on the one hand and a reasonably successful current use program on the other. Perhaps there is some hope that the same folks poised to succeed from increased tourism will recognize that only by maintaining and protecting that which led folks to come visit VT in the first place will they continue to see success. Call it pie in the sky idealism, but there is a hopeful model.

Earnest question: do you believe that your trailwork in Northfield is exempt from Act 250 permitting concerns? If so, why? Is it the small scale of the project? The ownership of the land on which it is happening? I think there are folks out there, not just the large trail centers and for-profit trail contractors, who feel as though Act 250 review can hamstring small scale projects. I imagine that a lot of the trails you and the rest of this forum hold dear were in fact developed "illegally" when it comes to Act 250. Or am I missing something? Again, this is earnest, not trolling. You've been around a while, seen the growth of multiple "homegrown" networks and then also been employed by large contractors to build new trails in those networks with an eye towards increasing accessibility (and thus tourism).
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,674 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What about forestry, Dave? It is nearly entirely exempt from environmental restrictions imposed on other industries, but it is overseen by trained, educated foresters who presumably have the best intentions. That said, they are still the folks who would make money off of continued logging. So there is an example where it sort of works. You get terrible clear cuts on the one hand and a reasonably successful current use program on the other. Perhaps there is some hope that the same folks poised to succeed from increased tourism will recognize that only by maintaining and protecting that which led folks to come visit VT in the first place will they continue to see success. Call it pie in the sky idealism, but there is a hopeful model.

Earnest question: do you believe that your trailwork in Northfield is exempt from Act 250 permitting concerns? If so, why? Is it the small scale of the project? The ownership of the land on which it is happening? I think there are folks out there, not just the large trail centers and for-profit trail contractors, who feel as though Act 250 review can hamstring small scale projects. I imagine that a lot of the trails you and the rest of this forum hold dear were in fact developed "illegally" when it comes to Act 250. Or am I missing something? Again, this is earnest, not trolling. You've been around a while, seen the growth of multiple "homegrown" networks and then also been employed by large contractors to build new trails in those networks with an eye towards increasing accessibility (and thus tourism).
We could talk about current use and forestry in Vt as well, and how it adversely impacts taxes in the state. Understand this with Current Use. It came into being after a recognition that the property tax system in Vermont was broken. It was implemented as a TEMPORARY fix until a better solution was created. Instead, it has been further complicated and amended and, at the same time, the quality forest products industry has all but vanished. A VERY small percentage of lands in the program are managed for high quality timber. It's pulp and firewood. The deal for private landowners was based on the reality that private land managed for high quality timber was feeding into a forest products industry that was providing production jobs and revenue in Vt. Now that industry is all but gone, and it's nothing more that a 90 percent reduction in property tax for generally well off folks who own more than 25 acres. They pay for a management plan, don't really have to follow it, then cut some trees for firewood every ten years, which is almost worthless as compared to the industry these private wood lots fed, at one time. In addition, the penalties for with drawl as so weak, 12-20 dollar an acre, that a large land owner is sheltered from taxes then gladly pays the penalty to pull out and develop. The state foresters will tell you plainly Current Use is broken, and was never intended to be but a temporary fix to an issue still never addressed, and a major problem for residents, and a deterrent to folks choosing to move here as residents. Tax.

As for trail systems like Northfield, Act 250 jurisdiction is mostly about involved lands. We have 1 dedicated parking lot for 6 cars. Our trails are very narrow, and trail density is VERY low. Northfield has zoning so the trigger threshold is high. Trail use is not (yet) commercialized in Northfield, or Berlin. I have no desire to add any great length of trail. Objective analysis of this trail network just does not come close to triggering a review, under the current act 250 statute. That said, I would welcome a real close look at just what "trail development" has taken place since the Shaw Center went in. It's apples vs automobiles as compared to what industrial trail development is for the crews running multiple excavators within communities marketing, building out parking lots, and seeing tens to hundreds of thousands of visitors a season. MTB trail development is clearly 2 different things these days, but folks taking a black and white view on the subject, any trail being created is equal to all trail development is so false, it's clearly a distortion of the truth.
https://nrb.vermont.gov/act250-program

If the individuals in my town who are intoxicated by the prospect of their own elevated social status as the marketers are successful in their grant proposals, and full monetization of our local resources, I will be the first person to trigger a review. That is what the statue exists for. It give residents of the community, and the state a lever to pull, a check to the overtly commercial, industrial activity taking place within the state and towns of Vt. I would rather close down what I have created than live in a tourist destination. Or move. Tourism sucks to be around and we all know it. With the Pandemic, it's now a danger.

The other trigger that keeps Northfield from falling under NRB jurisdiction at this point is $. There are no club dues. There are no trail fees. There is no money involved. Act 250, as it currently exists, only applies to commerce on private land, and adjacent public land. VMBA type club chapters and non-profit status, memberships and donations are explicitly listed as commerce by the statute. Yes, if Victory or KTA was free to ride, and not a VMBA chapter, it would be exempt.

You should read the statute in full if you haven't. Iit become quite clear what networks should be subject to review. KT. Trapps, GMT, Slate Valley, Richmond....once they hit the threshold of involved lands, would be subject because they are either VMBA chapters, or are charging for access. Monetization is the key.

This video explains a lot about Current Use. You will hear the State Foresters tell it like it is. Broken, never fixed, and a failure.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4JnTm85J_g
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Seems that the current VT and American model is to restrict industry to protect the environment, which is obviously great in principle. However, if we could sustainably log locally instead of buying lumber from other countries or regions who clear cut with poor environmental or safety practices then all we have done is exploit the less fortunate. Same with recreational land use. I’d rather see responsible trail building and monetization of that locally. Sure it will bring more people, but it also keeps pressure off the good local stuff that’s hard to find and challenging to ride. It’s not like the changes allow excavator happy bro bras churn out trails wherever they want. If a landowner wants trails and wants invest all that cash, why can’t they or club do that. It’s a shame V Hill was shut down. Total Bs in my opinion. Not everyone can afford has the land or funds to pay Hardy to build a
Bunch of kick ass trails for the public to use free of charge.
I’m glad that he does, and that he chose Hardy, but I don’t see why that’s favored over
victory or Richmond.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,674 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
While the excavated building of what are essentially small networks of roads, in some cases not needed, brings a lot more erosion issues and general impact than trails that are not entirely excavated, that piece is not the most profound in terms of negative impacts to a community. The tourism traffic, pollution, litter, and trail user conflicts are the real draw backs once a trail network is marketed "successfully".

It's also dishonest. This technique is NOT more beginner or family friendly (see the North Branch trails in Montpelier or the Shaw Center, or even Blue Berry Lake), because it's not a featured tread that deters use by kids or new MTBers, it's gradient.

This type of trail building in Vt came into existence because it's the only way for a private company to profit from trail building. In addition, economic impact studies developed by VT department of tourism and marketing grossly overstate the potential economic gains, while negative impacts are externalized. It's a scam. I was there, and participating in the conversations when this model evolved. I worked a few projects, saw how dishonest it was, and how inferior the product was, as well as the experience they provide, in general. Using tax dollars to fund it is vulgar considering the economic realities for many in VT communities.

If a town can not provide the volunteer labor to build MTB trails, then there is not enough interest locally to have an MTB network. When MTBing in VT switched to benching trails either by hand, or machine, the local riders stopped showing up in many cases....because no one wanted to ride that. This is where the first pro crew came from around here. To fill the void left when the community at large walked away from official development. There are exceptions. Now that the realities of the monetization and marketing are coming to bear through our land use laws, or land owner conflicts, instead or reconsidering the errors of their ways, VMBA et al just seek exemption. Is that a win? To me it's a clear contradiction to all the lip service paid to "Community" by these lobbyists and sales-folk.
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top