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Cambridge Recreation Trails Work Group

Minutes of Meeting April 9, 2009


Peter Involstad, Jen Robbins, co-facilitators, Jay Allen, Jules Eberhard, Larry Fennel, Meg Fleming, Rick Fletcher, Dick Goff, Matt Goodyear, Terry Holden, Jean Jenkauskas, Dorcas Jones, Laird McDowell, Bill McKone, Joel Page, Carl Powden, Anne Rogers, Joe Rogers, Phil Rogers, Jan Schilling, Mark Schilling, Susan Serras, Zeke Zucker


The meeting for this newly formed group came to order at 6:40 p.m.

Peter began the meeting by asking everyone to introduce themselves. The attendees, 23 in all, represented numerous organizations: Smugglers’ Notch Snowmobile Club, Cambridge Greenway, Lamoille Valley Rail Trails (LVRT), Cambridge Conservation Commission, Vermont Land Trust (VLT), Brewster River Mountain Bike Club, Green Mountain Club, Cambridge Historical Society, Jeffersonville Covered Bridge Society, Cambridge Crossroads, Vermont Coverts, as well as other area educators, farmers, business owners, runners, and generally interested people.

The catalyst for forming a trails work group was a directive from Bill Stritzler, chair of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and owner of Smugglers’ Notch Resort, mandating that Peter “do something that he’s never done before, has the potential for attracting timeshare owners back to the Resort, and, that it not cost him (Bill) anything”. Peter’s solution for meeting these criterion was to create “Gateway to Nature”, a non-profit organization for environmental education. One aspect of this endeavor is to bring recreational users of trails together to share thoughts and map strategy; hence, this evening’s meeting.

Vision/What Results?

Peter outlined the following list of results he envisions as aims for this organization:

  • To build a collaboration of recreational users of trails, user groups, supporting organizations and landowners to maintain and create a trail network for the Town of Cambridge.
  • To gain permission for use, maintenance, and development of mapped trails on private and public lands on a yearly basis that does not take away the rights of land owners or create potential for liability.
  • To create learning opportunities for all users about the geological, plant life, wildlife, and human history along these trails and to educate about conservation strategies for the present and future.
  • To create learning opportunities for High School and College Students in which they help create the first three results.


The discussion that followed brought up various economic, educational, and other impacts that an organized community trail system might have:


Experiential programming (leads to improvement in traditional course work)
“No Child Left Inside”!
Opportunities to acquire skills such as GPS mapping, etc.
“Give kids a task and they’ll jump on it.”
Could be a component of LUHS’s “6.4” program where students design own learning
Ties in with PLACE workshop themes: geology, history, plant & wildlife


Don’t start with asking landowners to give up rights. Talk to people first before drawing lines!
There are a lot of myths & misconceptions and the opposite has, in fact, been shown to be the case – recreational trail users aren’t into robbing & vandalism; their presence discourages this kind of activity.
Real estate people have noted that prospective buyers used to be interested in properties with tennis courts - now it’s properties with rail trails.
Once landowners see that good things are happening to trail owners, they get on board, often donating perpetual easements, etc.
Many landowners are comfortable with granting permission for use of their land for recreational activities, but not with it being mapped and this information being made public.
Some landowners are willing to allow use, but want to limit access to particular activities.
Good idea to assess degrees of willingness person by person, parcel by parcel
When land ownership changes, often availability does too
It’s easiest to procure trail access on public lands, or, on large tracts of land having a single owner.
The snowmobile club tries for 5-year agreements, but with some flexibility so that landowners don’t feel backed into a corner.
Contacting landowners would best be done by “people who know people”.
Liability insurance, defense fund and other issues also need to be addressed.


Grants of $1,000/year for trail programs may be available from IBM.
The Brewster River Campground could be available for cookouts, other venues related to this project.
A trail system could help build the area’s economy in various ways.
Incorporate Vermont mythology/mystique in promoting idea.

The Kingdom Trails network is generating some revenue from their system.
Most people are willing to pay a reasonable fee for access to recreation trails.
The Vermont Horse Council has been very successful with their fee/use structure.


The snowmobile club currently maintains 56 miles of trails with just eight people and might welcome consolidation of efforts

Terry Holden said that she would like to see a commitment to universal access. Peter mentioned plans in the works of building a handicap accessible tree house at Smugg’s. “There is a lot of technology available to get around on varied terrain.”

Dick Goff sees trail development as a good opportunity for documenting the area’s geology.

Bill McKone asked if a network would exclude “water trails”, i.e., would canoes, etc. be a part of this? “Good point!” said Peter, with Dick adding that it would be a good way to incorporate the geology and history of our rivers.

Jen Robins noted potential archeological and land impact concerns that would need to be addressed when planning trails near rivers and streams. Other factors include wildlife corridors, peregrine nesting, and deer wintering areas. Jen said that the Conservation Commission has just acquired a lot of data on these issues and she will look into what parts of this information are available for release.

Susan Serra commented on the educational opportunities environmental issues such as these present.

Jean J. mentioned that, at last November’s Community Forum, there was a high level of interest in developing a “Village to Village” trail connecting Jeff & Cambridge. She also mentioned a recent Landmark Policy Report on cancer prevention where #1 on the list of recommendations was “walking and cycling routes to encourage physical activity”.

Laird said that “ATV’s are another whole issue, but have to be included in this group”.

Work Groups to accomplish what?

Peter listed the following as primary tasks for the Cambridge Trails Work Group, asking who would be involved and when each might be accomplished:

  • Preliminary mapping of existing trials to be overlaid on map showing property borders and owners.
  • Developing landowner agreement
  • Contacting landowners that have existing trails on their land and ask if they are willing to allow the use of these trails - if so, by what recreation groups, and, whether they would sign a one-year agreement.
  • Organizing trail maintenance work dates and recruiting help.
  • Developing & instituting learning programs and sites.
  • Creating new trails

Trail development activities already in progress or accomplished by other groups:

  • Smugglers’ Notch Resort is looking to connect with Brewster Uplands trail system.
  • Development of Jeffords Park (near the Poland Bridge) by Lamoille Valley Rail Trails. This park is a prototype for what will be needed all along the LVRT and is a fairly cut and dry project with no wetland issues, etc.
  • After six years of working on it, Act 250 determination is pending for the LVRT.
  • Smugglers’ Notch Area Chamber of Commerce received a grant for and produced a recreation map for the county.

Next Steps

Of special interest was consolidation of efforts where possible (“Why re-invent what’s been done so well by VAST and others?”) Morristown, Burke, Randolph, and a number of groups in Chittenden County have all done a considerable amount of trail mapping and development. Research: Zeke & Laird said that they would contact Morrisville Trails, Larry, Burke’s Kingdom Trail Network, and Matt, Randolph’s.

Jen, Dorcas, Jay, Bill, and several Conservation Commission members will work on mapping. Some maps are in existence, many of them old (i.e., ski trails from 1932). Three phases to mapping were identified: 1) Existing trails, 2) Connections between existing trails, 3) New trails.

Peter will facilitate development of a Landowner Agreement.

There was a general consensus of less interest in meetings and more in getting things done. Communication would best be facilitated by networked e-mails. The group will get together periodically (i.e., for reports on info from other communities).

The meeting was adjourned at 7:46 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by Jean Jenkauskas.

Brewster Uplands
Brewster River Uplands

Dead Horse Trail in Smugglers Notch
Dead Horse Trail in Smugglers Notch

Brook in North Cambridge
Brook in North Cambridge

"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."   Margaret Mead

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