Cross-Vermont (Lamoille Valley Rail) Trail Opposition: The VNRC?

A minor controversy erupted in Vermont in the last month over the Vermont Natural Resource Council's (VNRC) opposition to a railbed conversion project which will create a recreation trail.  The "Cross Vermont Trail", also known as the LVRT ("Lamoille Valley Rail Trail") is going to be a 94 mile, 4-season trail across three counties in northern vermont.  I'm on the board of the conversion committee.

Why does the VNRC oppose the project?  Their mission, in part, from the VNRC website:  "From the State House to your Town Hall, VNRC keeps Vermonters informed on the environmental issues that you and your family care most about. We keep a constant presence in the Vermont State House to promote a vision of a Vermont that is healthy and sustainable. We empower our members to take action when the voice of concerned citizens is needed to make a difference."

The VNRC is having their lawyers try to delay and/or scuttle the project, however they have not published a position on the project.  This is causing quite a stir because even though technically, the railbed is 'railbanked' which could allow for it to revert to rail use, we have a 99-year lease on the railbed and our goal in creating a recreation trail is to promote a vision of Vermont that is healthy and sustainable, and to prevent ATV's and motorized use of the trail in all seasons but winter (when it opens to snowmobiles).  Our management plan (already approved by the state dept of transportation) includes use policies and law enforcement - features that are missing on the trail currently, which is used by ATV's, used for dumping trash, etc.  This is a grassroots project and we're almost done with the permitting.  We have wide support from all the landowners (except one).

Lately, a series of posters have been making the rounds (see pic at right for an example) that, perhaps unfairly, characterize the VNRC as jack-booted thugs, hell-bent on crushing the very people it claims to serve.  The authorship remains unknown, however it is clear from the VNRC's lack of response that rumors have surfaced that one of the board members is being paid by a single landowner to scuttle the project.  Rumor has it that this organization also has close ties to folks that are trying to open public land to ATV's, which are expressly forbidden on the Cross-Vermont Trail.  There is also talk of close ties to housing developers (hit hard in the last year) and hush-money.

These are rumors, and completely unfounded, however the VNRC's aggressive (and unexplained) opposition to a project that is entirely in keeping with their stated mission goes on unabated and they refuse to explain the rationale to their financial supporters, members and the public.  This is so weird.

If you live in Vermont, feel free to contact a board member (see this list) or a state legislator and ask for an explanation.  Tell them you want the trail.

1 comment:

  1. Mutha I support the Lamoille Valley Rail, the concept is great bring people throughout Vermont on a shared railbed and near businesses.

    The propaganda poster is interesting to say the least.