Each year, members of the Stowe Trails Partnership dedicate hundreds of hours to prepare the trails for the riding season.

Trail stewards walk every foot of the over 30 miles of public and privately owned trails in our network, identifying areas for repair or sustainability concerns, and during the next couple of months individual and family group volunteers, board members, and paid trail crew ensure that the riding will live up to our mission statement: To partner with the community in building and maintaining a world-class trail network. 

This year, we also had trails under construction in Adams Camp, trail recovery from a logging operation in another pod, and plans in the works for new trails that will hopefully connect different pods with singletrack instead of road.

With all of these things that needed to happen for our season to get off to a stellar start, one would think that the impact of COVID-19 would be felt on our trails in addition to other parts of our community — schools, restaurants, small businesses, etc. We could have forgiven ourselves had things gotten off to a slower start than normal, given the challenges and uncertainty of it all.

Thankfully, that was not the case. Community members, finding that they had some previously unavailable spare time to help prepare the network, reached out and offered their help.

Volunteers showed up in remarkable numbers for our COVID-aware trail work days, excited that they could be a part of the early season magic that is full of anticipation.

Travel restrictions and a dry spring meant that there were so many bikers, hikers, dog walkers and other trail users eager to get on the trails that we managed to really live up to the most important part of our name: Partnership. So, from this avid rider and board member, thank you!

I have been thinking a lot about how trails bring our community together.

All of the stages of life of a trail — the planning, fundraising, construction, enjoyment and maintenance — require input from the whole community. Over the years, we have developed and continue to care for vital relationships with the Town of Stowe, the Stowe Land Trust, Trapp Family Lodge and other private landowners, because without their support, the trail map would look vastly different.

These folks know the importance of trails to the community, and it’s not just recreational, economic, or conservation. It’s part of our identity. Whether they are covered with snow, dirt, rock or even pavement, trails are an integral part of the Stowe experience in any season.

Seeing kids out on bikes with friends, some visitors checking out the trail map at Cady Hill, and the wide smiles of riders earned on a high-speed descent on Flo or Bears keeps me enthusiastic about the work Stowe Trails Partnership is spearheading. In lives that for many of us have become isolated, the trails provide an opportunity to remind us that we are part of a greater community, whether that be the Stowe community, the community of outdoor enthusiasts, Vermonters, or simply humans who like to get out and breathe fresh air and work our bodies as they were meant to be worked instead of crouching over a computer and attending one more Zoom meeting.

When I get on my bike and start climbing, I can zero in on the experience and moment at hand, and I remember that things are going to be OK, and hopefully soon.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, from the micro level of fixing drainages or repairing bridges, to the macro level bringing more diversity to both our membership and leadership within the trails partnership. As we work on those important and transformational objectives, though, we will never lose sight of our overarching mission, which is maintaining a partnership that has provided for our shared success over the years. 

I hope to see you all on the trails this summer — biking, running, walking, bird watching or whatever activity gets you outside and in the woods. I’ll be sure to give you a little space, but not so much that we can’t share a smile and a little conversation.

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