With more Vermonters hitting the trail than ever, outdoor enthusiasts say sustainability, respect for landowners is key

Two mountain bikes sit in a truck bed

Bike traffic at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke picked up this summer as pandemic-related travel restrictions eased. Officials encouraged riders to be respectful of the landowners who make the trails available for public use. (Nina Keck/VPR)

One day this past summer, trail designer Mariah Keagy bushwacked up a hill in Waitsfield, Vermont. She stepped over logs and under branches and double-checked her GPS.

“So, what I’m aiming to do is be on just enough of a side slope to make sure we have proper drainage,” explained Keagy, who’s a partner with Sinuosity, a Stowe-based trail development company.

Keagy was mapping out a new trail in the Scrag Mountain Town Forest.

“It’s a very, very, very, very cool spot in terms of, it goes up to the summit of Scrag and some really nice waterfalls, and some really pretty natural features,” she said.

During the pandemic, beautiful places like this saw a lot more runners, dog walkers and day hikers. And according to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than 60% of Americans surveyed said they plan to continue those activities.

In Vermont, that’s pushed trail industry experts to consider how to make the increase in traffic sustainable.

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