The first phase of what is called the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Project includes reopening trails for recreation at the site of the former Dutch Hill downhill ski area in the Heartwellville section of Readsboro. It also calls for hiking, snowmobiling and ATV trails primarily in Readsboro and Woodford.
The Forest Service envisions a five- to seven-year effort.
David Francomb, Manchester District ranger in the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest region, signed off Oct. 25 on the long-planned series of projects in an area that extends into six towns: Readsboro, Stamford, Whitingham, Pownal, Woodford and Bennington.
The projects are all planned for Green Mountain National Forest land, while the entire project area includes privately owned land and parcels owned by towns or the state.
An environmental impact review found no significant negative impacts would result from the work, and a subsequent appeal period produced no objections.
Francomb said the Forest Service will now put together an implementation planning team to decide how to proceed with the first phase. That will involve working with a number of organizations and recreation groups, which in some cases will share the cost of projects or perform work on trails and other improvements.At the former Dutch Hill site off Route 100, Francomb said his office has heard from ski groups and trail organizations interested in partnering in the creation of a year-round recreation trail system. The project does not involve private developers, he said.
Dutch Hill was one of the region’s early small downhill ski areas, operating from 1944 to 1985, before closing amid a series of mild winters and growing competition from larger areas like Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts that had chairlifts, more and longer trails, snowmaking and resort amenities.
The groups expected to participate in the variety of forest management projects across the area include the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, the Bennington Area Trail System, the Vermont All-Terrain Sportsman Association and the Catamount Trail Association, Francomb said.Other planned projects include timber harvesting and timber stand improvements; soil and water quality improvements; fish and wildlife habitat enhancement; improvements to existing hiking or vehicle trails or to shelters and trailhead parking sites; forest bridge work; relocation of Seth Warner Shelter on the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail; new trail marking and trail section relocations.
The logging project in Readsboro will, like other timber projects in the Green Mountain National Forest, provide some of the funding for work on the other projects, he said.
Francomb said he will likely update town officials on the pending projects by March. The first timber harvest will involve about 1,000 acres around Mud Pond in Woodford and Readsboro.
“Most of these partners and project proponents will be the towns, trail associations, volunteer groups and other nonprofit organizations,” Francomb said. He said the work will be implemented through a variety of agreements and funding mechanisms still to be determined. “We are in the initial stages of meeting with our partner organizations and user groups, who were engaged with the Forest Service over the course of the planning process,” he said.
He added that meetings are being scheduled with off-road vehicle groups and backcountry ski groups to discuss some of the specific proposed activities that were part of the South of Route 9 environmental assessment.
A detailed description of all the projects can be found here.