Vermont Huts Association Update – strategy, new hut, partnerships and campaign
by Sam Demas, November 2017
The recent Launch Party of the Vermont Huts Association (VHA) was a gala presentation of the strategy, partners and progress of the nation’s newest state-wide hut association. Following is a quick sketch of VHA after its first year of operation.
VHA Mission & Strategy: Connectivity
As an organization based on partnering, the VHA mission statement includes: …collaborating with our partners in recreation, we will enhance existing trail networks, expand connectivity, and create a four-season hut network across the Green Mountain State to strengthen local communities and foster a deeper appreciation of our natural environment.
To create a cohesive network of accommodations, this emerging non-profit will eventually identify 20-30 zones across the state with potential sites for huts that will connect existing accommodations infrastructure on the state’s extensive (more than 900 miles?) trail system. Their approach is to fashion a year-round “multiple modality” system including hiking, biking and skiing. The focus of Phase 1 of their strategic plan is on the Route 100 corridor in central Vermont, which is rich in trails, trail towns, and accommodations that can be connected. The goal is to work with a wide range of organizations and agencies to fashion a state-side recreational network out of existing trails and infrastructure.
Yes, this is an ambitious undertaking; but it actually seems achievable due to the remarkable outdoor recreation community and ethos of cooperation in Vermont.
State-wide Context: Collaboration and Community
Since 2008 Vermont has experienced a surge of engagement with backcountry skiing and biking. This has stimulated efforts to create a robust community of interest around Nordic skiing and other forms of recreation. This grassroots movement is indelibly stamped with quintessentially Vermont common-sense driven cooperation. It is within this broader context that VHA was born and operates, and that lends confidence that its promise will be realized.
A few quick examples: It is remarkable how quickly the Vermont Backcountry Alliance and a number of independent community-based initiatives found common cause and became local chapters of the Catamount Trail Association, which operates a 300 mile North-South trail traversing the state North-South, purportedly the longest Nordic ski trail in North America. The Vermont Land Trust contributed to the development of backcountry skiing through preservation of 1,161 acres of ski terrain in 2011, which was donated to the existing 44,444 acre Mt Mansfield State Park. The Vermont Mountain Bike Association, with 28 chapters statewide are building an extensive network of trails, most going East-West, is an avid collaborator. And add to this rich mélange the legendary expertise and leadership of the Green Mountain Club, with its North-South Long Trail, and the recreational and conservation experience, vision and lands of the Green Mountain National Forest and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. They all appear to play well together.
These are just some of the most obvious players creating a remarkable milieu in which huts might flourish as part of a state-wide strategy to pursue increased recreational access (and economic development) while vigilantly protecting the environment from over-use by ever-increasing human impacts.
First hut now under construction
The first hut that VHA will actually build and operate is under construction now by the non-profit Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vt. VHA will manage the self-service hut — perhaps with a weekly caretaker — under a long-term management plan it is devising with advice from the Green Mountain Club. An application is pending for a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to site the hut in the Rochester Unit of the Green Mountain National Forest. The hope is that the hut will open in 2018, and that it will be sited to allow connection to existing accommodations to the South, and that over the next year or two another hut will be constructed to strategically further develop a hut-to-hut network in the region.
Membership and fundraising campaign
VHA’s challenge now is to bring these phase one plans to fruition, and they are reaching out for support. The project construction budget is $60,000, of which $28,000 has been raised so far. In addition to securing the remaining construction funds in the coming year, VHA’s goal is to increase its membership to 228 by the end of 2017.
You will be supporting a remarkable, forward-thinking state-wide vision and momentum for cooperation in the interest of recreation and environmental conservation.