Dear WATA Community,
We hate to be the bearer of bad news when everybody is already stressed and seeing their feeds full of COVID-19 cancellations. However, in the interest of public health, safety and trail preservation, Perry Hill will be closed for the foreseeable future for all uses. We based this decision on the following factors:
1) Social Distancing will be a challenge at our trailhead - We only have one entry and exit point, and limited parking options. Observing the challenges that our neighboring ski areas had with uphill ski traffic with much larger infrastructure to support it, we do not feel that our small trailhead can maintain proper CDC recommendations for social distancing. 2) We don’t want to encourage travel from out of state carrying the virus to our community - On average Perry Hill sees 20,000 user visits per year, and we see visitors from as far away as British Columbia on our humble network. Many of our visitors come from hot spots such as New York and Boston. Normally, we love to host our out of town friends, but right now that would be part of the problem; not the solution. Asymptomatic people could be carriers and bring the virus to our community. We feel that having the network closed prevents this from occurring. 3) Injuries will be an unnecessary burden on our maxed out health care system - Last year alone we had two board members break bones at Perry Hill. We've come to learn that both UVM Medical and Central Vermont Medical emergency rooms are on a first name basis with our humble little network. Even conservative riding can have accidents; one board member can attest, they broke their neck on a mellow pre-work ride on S'mores (our easiest trail). We feel it important to limit any additional strain for our health care workers on the front lines. 4) The Governor has determined that trail maintenance is a non-essential activity - As soon as the snow melts out each year, WATA Volunteers put in hundreds of hours to get the trails ready for the summer season. The work includes cleaning and repairing drainages, clearing blow downs, raking/leaf blowing the trails, repairing damage to trail tread that occurred over the winter, making sure that features are safe and in working order, and many other items. We are unable to perform those activities under the stay at home order.
5) Riding/Walking/Running on Unmaintained Trails is not safe/can damage the trails - Without being able to perform our spring maintenance, use of the trails can be both dangerous, as well as cause permanent damage to the trails.
6) Mud Season - In addition, our trails are usually closed through early May, and for good reason. Riding/Walking/Running on soft trails causes permanent damage that requires both volunteer time and possibly paid work to repair. Just like any other year it’s a good time to get in shape by gravel riding and get your bike properly tuned for when the trails are ready to open. So When Will Perry Hill Open? We do not know at this time.
Perry Hill will open once the stay at home order is lifted, we are able to conduct our usual spring maintenance, and the trails are dry enough for biking/walking/running. Right now it is not clear how long the stay at home order will be in place but we are anticipating that it will impact our opening timeline. We will be watching closely and let you know as soon as we have an estimate of our projected opening. What About the trails at Little River State Park? While the State Parks are currently open to use without any facilities, the mountain bike trails WATA Maintains are closed for the same reasons as listed above.
What We Are Doing?
1) Keeping you in the loop - We are working closely with multiple agencies: VMBA; The Vermont Trails And Greenways Council; and the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation to monitor this situation. We will be in touch regularly with updates as they become available to us.
2) We are supporting our trail builders - WATA works closely with a talented group of independent contractors. Simply put we could not offer the quality riding experience we do without them. With trail maintenance no longer being permitted under the stay at home order, they are unable to work. We have $26,500 of planned projects between LRSP and Perry Hill and we have offered to pay the trail builders upfront to help support them while they are unable to work.
3) Supporting our Community - We are exploring ways we can further support our Waterbury community members in need during this difficult time. We will be in touch with further ideas and suggestions.
What you can do?
1) Volunteer to do Trail Work - We usually have several weeks to get the trails prepped for the season, we are going to have to scramble to get them open ASAP as soon as the order is lifted (*Conditions dependent*). The more volunteers the sooner we can get the trails open. Please sign up here and we will email you directly.
2) Become a Member - With the Gravel Grinder canceled we have lost a significant chunk of our projected revenue for this year. Your membership dollars will go directly to funding both our plans and any additional work we need to do. Obviously, we recognize that many are experiencing financial hardship right now. Please only consider becoming a member if you have the means to do so.
Thank you, WATA Family.
In closing, We recognize that this can be a major impact to our community and members. Please know, we are right there with you. For us on the board, getting out and working on the trails this time of year is therapeutic. The feeling of the first ride of the season is something we look forward to all winter. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and continued support, and know that your favorite trails will be there on the other side of this. Please stay healthy and we can’t wait to come together again.