This message is to share with you an opportunity to have input on the Act 250 review process that has been happening this year. Please read the message from VMBA below and attend one of the public sessions, and provide your input on this survey.
As many of you are aware, our trails at the Aqueduct have come under Act 250 jurisdiction because of the Water Storage tank built in 1986. Once there is an Act 250 permit on a property, anything you do in the future has to go through a permit process to amend the initial permit. Because of the 1986 permit, we are required to go through the amendment process. IF there were no pre-existing Act 250 permit on the property, our trail system would not meet the disturbance threshold required to undergo Act 250 review.
Essentially, the Aqueduct Trails have come under Act 250 review because of a 32 year old permit for a completely unrelated development on the other side of a town road.
WAMBA leadership has been working through the process with the State of VT since January, and to date, our volunteer time spent is in the hundreds of hours. We are far from done – we now need to hire a Wetlands Specialist, and perhaps a permitting specialist to help us through the rest of the project.
We’re all very pro – environment here, but the current Act 250 process puts trail projects in the same review process as development of shopping plazas, and doesn’t recognize that we are trying to create tiny paths through the woods so that people can experience the natural environment.
Permitting of trail projects needs to occur in a way that reflects a true understanding of trail impacts (or lack thereof) and the State of Vermont needs to understand what a benefit trails represent for communities and residents across our State.
Our recent and ongoing efforts to comply with the requirements of Act 250 have diverted our chapter’s volunteer hours away from trail improvements, signage, maps, and community events. We are spending membership dollars on permitting and specialists that could instead be spent on making our trail system better, and more environmentally friendly.
Please lend your voice to the public process so that future trail systems and organizations might have a more straightforward path to permitting trails in their communities.
The VT Trails and Greenways Council is working to coordinate a unified message to state leadership regarding Act 250 and its impact on trails, landowners and municipalities.
In brief, Act 250 is land use and development law that has meant a lot to Vermont since its inception in 1970. We’ve learned a lot in 50 years and it’s time to evaluate how the law intersects with trails.
It’s important that we send a clear message that acknowledges the role Act 250 plays in keeping Vermont beautiful, but also encourages the commission to consider its application relative to landowners and trails going forward. Act 250 for many landowners is a deal breaker. Private land accounts for over 70% of Vermont – we need to actively advocate for our landowners – particularly if we are to realize our vision of connected networks.
The Trails and Greenways Council will dig into the specifics of definitions, rules and regulations with the legislature. What we’re seeking from you is general support and input that highlights the positive role of trails in Vermont.
The Agency of Natural Resources is hosting two more regional summits to gather input about about Act 250, including its impact on trails in Vermont. The Commission on Act 250: “The Next 50 Years” was established by the Vermont Legislature to work on modernizing Act 250. It’s very important that the Commission hear voices of the trails and outdoor recreation community during this process.
VMBA and the Council fully supports the work of the Commission as conservation and environmental protection are core values for all of us. However, we are also concerned because Act 250 regulation can and has created confusion, expensive and time consuming obstacles to improving and maintaining your trails.
It is critical that any potential reforms consider the irreplaceable benefits of Vermont trails. We must inform our legislators and state leadership charged with modernizing the law understand that support of the trails and volunteers is required at this time. Creating cumbersome and confusing obstacles for the landowners, towns, nonprofits and volunteers that create, build and maintain virtually all of the trail infrastructure for the public good will have tremendously negative impacts.
Over 70% of our trails are hosted and maintained on private land and made possible through 100,000+ volunteer hours annually. We need to actively advocate for our private landowners and our visions of trail connectivity.
There are two regional summits remaining: Rutland – Sept. 5 – 6-8 pm, Franklin Conference Center Burlington Sept. 12 – 6-8 pm, Burlington Elks Lodge, 925 North Ave
At a summit or through the online survey LINK HERE , please share all of your reasons for supporting appropriate trail building criteria going forward. Please also consider highlighting some of the following information:
Trails are invaluable pathways to better health, rural economic stability and conservation in Vermont
Cumbersome permitting fees attached to “development” are a deal breaker for nonprofits. Our trail infrastructure is not built by volunteers for commercial purposes
Trail organizations and users are conservationists, completely dedicated to environmentally friendly and sustainable trails
Over 70% of trails are on private land – we need regulation that will support their generosity and encourage even more trails and conservation
Trails have a low environmental impact with great benefits, including the inspiration of greater conservation and environmental protection. Therefore, trails should not be considered “development”and lumped into the same regulation categories as other construction projects
Currently, Act 250 limits Vermont’s ability to fully realize the benefits that could come with greater support for trails and outdoor recreation
Trails and outdoor recreation not only make Vermonters healthier with over 72% of Vermonters participating, but they also provide over 50 thousand, or roughly 1 in 7, of the jobs in Vermont (Outdoor Industry Association)