My time in Vermont was efficient thanks to Danny Hale and Doug Weber (and, I suspect, thanks also to Dani Cady, VASA's Executive Assistant.) Danny Hale is the Executive Director of The Vermont All-Terrain Vehicles Sportsman's Association, Inc. (VASA, http://www.vtvasa.org/). It bears noting that Danny is running for a spot on the BRC board this year. (Thanks for offering your time to serve and good luck in the election.) Doug is the current President of the Vermont Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Association (VORA, http://www.vtvora.org/).
I say the meeting was efficient because they arranged a single meeting with a cross-section of leaders from full-size 4 X 4, off-road motorcycles/dual-sport motorcycles, and the ATV/UTV community at VASA's office on Thursday evening (Sept 6). That made it both convenient and informative on many levels for me. In addition, prior to the meeting I had dinner and some smaller goup discussions that included Danny, Doug, Dani Cady, and Joe Cicia, Vice President of The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST, http://www.vtvast.org/VAST.html). VAST was in the midst of major preparations for their annual convention and so were unable to attend the later meeting, so it was fortunate that I had the opportunity over dinner to discuss issues and concerns with their Vice President. (Thanks Joe for taking some of your dinner time to join us and add your perspective!)
Between the two sessions, there was a lot of ground covered that I couldn't possibly share here without making this too long. Here is just some of what I walked away understanding better:
Enthusiasts in Vermont have all but given up on any hope for managing State and Federal lands in Vermont for OHV recreation. There are basically no trails on either's land at this point and it seems like the regulations end up being a moving target. Most all of what enthusiasts have for trails has been arranged with private landowners and on some lower class (minimally maintained, if at all) township roads. Even that gets confusing depending on your vehicle of choice and the requirements from the state in terms of red sticker and green sticker plates and on what the townships have done with the class 4 roads they are responsible for. I heard several times about the need for consistency, both in the state and across bordering states.
Among the many other things I heard that night, one thing that has stuck with me is that "there needs to be some hope... people are missing hope." It is tough to keep an upbeat attitude among enthusiasts, and equally difficult to nurture and keep interest in organizations and clubs. Many just give up and go somewhere else to recreate which is not good for state and local economies that could certainly use that discretionary spending at home to improve conditions.
As they fight to get trails on the ground against a "green mountain of odds," they noted that even the science used against them isn't true. It is just advocacy science that has no basis in fact, but has been repeated so many times that the unknowing just accept it without question.
They long for studies to offset the lies about "environmental impact" and impact to wildlife. They see a real need for some positive environmental studies. In that respect, I think it was Doug who said, "The only time there is a study done is on when there is a problem, and half the time those studies don't relate to an actual trail or access issue--they just end up getting twisted to fit the issue. We need some sound scientific studies on the positive effects of good trail management to bring to the table."
In spite of that "green mountain of odds" against them, they are in it for the long haul and there is a lot of good work being done. The people I met with are fighters and they keep pushing forward, one mile at a time. There is a lot of opportunity for partnership here and they are working to take advantage of that through their state umbrella group VORA.
As the meeting drew to a close, I was unexpectedly presented with a generous check in support of the Turn the Tide Tour from VASA. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
I also want to offer out a special thanks for feeding me and providing me a place to stay on Thursday night.