Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance Plans Forum

Communities / Oct. 31, 2013 11:46am EDT

By Martha Slater

The Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) will host a Vermont Backcountry Ski Forum Thursday, Nov. 14 from 6-9 p.m. at the Pierce Hall Community Center on Main Street in Rochester,

A statewide event, the forum will begin with an informal hour of preforum networking, video watching, light fare, a cash bar, a panel discussion, and a chance to join RASTA.

A fledgling organization whose stated mission is to provide safe and sustainable non-motorized multiple use trails for the enjoyment of area residents and visitors, RASTA was founded last spring out of ongoing discussions between Rochester residents and outdoor enthusiasts Dan McKinley, Dean Mendell, and Greg White.

In addition to having trails for locals to use, one of their aims is getting people to come to this area for all four seasons to enjoy what those who live here enjoy.

They want to support the town and benefit the people and businesses here.

As they organized, the three added a couple of other local men, Angus McCusker, who works for Enhanced 911 doing mapping, has done location work for lost skiers, and does back-country skiing himself; and Josh Hanford, who does skiing and mountain biking.

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion will feature Dick Hall, founder of the North American Telemark Organization, Amy Kelsey, executive director of the Catamount Trail Association; Holly Knox, recreation and trails coordinator for the Green Mountain National Forest; Oliver Black, Smugglers Notch ski instructor, a ski patroller, and consulting forester; Dave Goodman, author of “Best backcountry Skiing in the Northeast.”

The state of Vermont will be represented, too. Ethan Phelps, parks regional manager for Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation, and Megan Smith, commissioner of the Vermont Dept. of Tourism and Marketing, will be part of the panel.

Admission is free, although donations are encouraged.

Missed Opportunity

“We all know there are a lot trails here in Rochester, but nothing that’s formal or promoted,” Hanford said. “It’s a missed opportunity. These trails can be used year-round for walking, horseback riding, and other things. It’s a benefit for the community to have a low-impact thing like this.”

“The seed of the idea was about back-country skiing, but we want it to grow to include hiking, mountain biking, a kayak trail, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and more,” Mendell explained.

“This idea started to balloon because a lot of like-minded people decided to work together to make it happen.”

“We’re trying to approach landowners to see if they want to work with us,” said McCusker. “We want to do this in a sustainable manner and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback.”

“One of the biggest landowners in Rochester is the Forest Service, and Chris Mattrick, who is the new District Ranger here, has been very supportive of working with us,” Hanford noted. “We have an agreement to partner with them to improve their existing trails.”

There have been monthly RASTA meetings and the organization has grown to include over 60 members, including some second-home owners.

Adam Blair of Independent Vermont Clothing designed the RASTA logo and T-shirts printed with it are available at the Rochester Hardware, Green Mountain Bikes, and Nordic Adventures.

Two Projects

“We have two different major projects we’re in the midst of,” McCusker said. “One is working with the Forest Service to do an operation and maintenance plan to adopt trails. RASTA is a member of the Vermont Mountain Bike association, which provides support, including dealing with landowner liability issues. Vermont has a landowner liability statute that protects the landowner from any lawsuit for injury on their land.”

“We’re also engaged in a pilot project with the Forest Service in the Chittenden Brook area, which already has cross-country skiing and hiking trails, and a campground, but is under-utilized,” he added. “They would like to turn it into a destination, and improve and promote it. There’s a big need for that kind of thing.”

Mendell noted that RASTA wants to open membership to anyone.

“We’re all about promoting a healthy lifestyle.”

For more information about RASTA, contact Dan McKinley at mckind@comcast.net or visit the RASTA website at www.rastavt.org.

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