Building on almost two decades of trail management, Stowe Trails Partnership continues to establish its legacy as stewards and advocates for trails in the community. Through these efforts, the partnership aspires to increase access to Stowe’s natural beauty, and by extension, the incredible benefits that outdoor recreation provides to residents and visitors.

The work focuses on enhancing and improving Stowe’s multi-use trails for the benefit of the community. In broader terms, we exist to connect members, neighbors and visitors to the local dirt.

Connecting to the dirt may seem like an insignificant goal, but studies have shown that getting dirty and being outside may make people happier and help to reduce stress. Additionally, research points to the stress-relieving properties of merely spending time in nature by lowering cortisol levels. Inevitably, the result of embarking on a bike, hike, walk or run on dirt will yield positive health results.

Today, increased access to dirt and outdoor spaces is more critical than ever, as more people are connecting to and seeking solace through nature. As we move through 2021, Stowe Trails Partnership believes that the lessons learned in 2020 will echo for years to come, including the importance and value of outdoor access for anyone and everyone.

We have been working to break down barriers to entry for new and returning outdoor recreators and improve the network so that it is accessible to all. One of the initiatives is partnering with Vermont Adaptive to create Stowe’s first naturally surfaced, adaptive trail, located in Cady Hill Forest.

In 2020, close to 3,000 hours of maintenance and work were completed by trail crews and community volunteers. We also spent over $82,800 on trail enhancements for the benefit of all the trail users. We are hosting the first full-time AmeriCorps member to provide in-person outreach and engagement with those who use the trails. And, we are working diligently to find a location to build a family-friendly mountain bike skills area so the next generation will have a place to hone its skills.

As ambassadors and champions of some of Stowe’s most valuable natural assets, it is crucial that we continue to expand our reach in the years to come, especially as we seek to keep pace with the increased and growing demand for the multi-use trails. We are thrilled to steward the trails that so many new and old faces use to connect with dirt and the natural world, and we invite all the trail users to support us in the coming year to help ensure that Stowe’s world-class network of trails can be maintained and grow.

We look forward to seeing you connect to the dirt in 2021.

Rachel Fussell is executive director of Stowe Trails Partnership.

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