Rochester Trails Group Draws Big Crowd

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Front Page / Nov. 21, 2013 11:06am EST

By Martha Slater


ALMOST INVISIBLE | A whitetail doe stares out toward the road from behind a clutch of trees Tuesday, blending neatly into the cold colors of late fall. (Herald / Tim Calabro) ALMOST INVISIBLE | A whitetail doe stares out toward the road from behind a clutch of trees Tuesday, blending neatly into the cold colors of late fall. (Herald / Tim Calabro) More than 170 people attended the Vermont Backcountry Ski Forum sponsored by the Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) Thursday evening, Nov. 14 at the Pierce Hall Community Center on Main Street in Rochester.

“That was way more than we expected,” said Dan McKinley happily. “I talked to people from Sugarbush to Killington to Shoreham to Tunbridge!”

“We also had people from Braintree and Randolph,” added Dean Mendell.

Two of the founders of RASTA, they were thrilled with the success of the event. Mendell was interviewed by Vermont Ski & Ride Magazine, and the meeting was also covered by a reporter from Backcountry Skier Magazine, as well as one from the Wild Snow website.

“We stirred the pot of an underlying interest in backcountry skiing, from a local view, to potentially a state-wide organization,” Mendell said.

McKinley noted that, “one outcome of the meeting is that we found there is an existing trails organization that may be interested in getting together with us to form an umbrella organization. However, we want to keep RASTA as a local organization. We hope that RASTA will be an economic asset to the community.”

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 McKinley, Mendell, and fellow Rochester resident Greg White.

In addition to having trails for locals to use, one of their aims is getting people to come to the 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.

Expert Advice

Last Thursday’s panel discussion featured 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;” Ethan Phelps, parks regional manager for Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation; and Megan Smith, commissioner of the Vermont Dept. of Tourism and Marketing.

At the forum, Knox spoke about how groups like RASTA can work with the Forest Service to Improve and enlarge the existing trail system.

Goodman pointed to the model that VAST has created of a statewide network of trails, by working with landowners.

“RASTA could do that on a local level,” Mendell noted later. “So far, we’ve approached several landowners, including a number in North Hollow, but nothing is formal yet. We’ve had a very positive reaction and are looking forward to working with them.”

“I am trilled by he energy of this organization and look forward to collaborating with them to market this product that they’re so passionate about,” Smith told The Herald. “I think Rochester is the perfect town for this project and if we can make it work there, we can do it in other parts of the state.”

More Members

At last Thursday’s forum, 30 new members signed up to join RASTA, which now has a total of 90.

The group is currently working with the Forest Service to create 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.

RASTA is 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. They would like to turn it into a destination, and improve and promote it.

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

RASTA meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m., with the location changing monthly. Check the website at www.rastavt.org or look at RASTA’s Facebook page for the current location. For more information about RASTA, contact Dan McKinley at mckind@comcast.net.

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