Perry Hill Winter Recreation Management Pilot Program Continues
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), which owns and manages the Perry Hill Block in the CC Putnam State Forest, announces the continuation of a pilot winter recreation monitoring and management program. This pilot program aims to reduce the negative impacts of winter trail use on an important deer wintering area while maintaining an enjoyable and popular winter recreational experience for the public.
This program was launched in February 2021 to maintain a winter recreation opportunity for the community while being mindful of the impact of winter trail use on wintering deer. FPR collected data on the dispersion of recreational use in the first year to determine if management objectives were met. After evaluating the data and finding that trail maintenance was meeting winter recreational use goals, FPR decided to continue the pilot program for the 2021-22 season. Once again, FPR will be partnering with the City of Waterbury and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA) to provide groomed bike, snowshoe, ski and pedestrian access to select trails.
Rosie Metcalf rushes down a track. Images reproduced with the kind permission of the ANR.
Much of Perry Hill is a functional deer wintering area, mapped by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VFWD). During the winter months, deer have limited food reserves and survive on fat reserves. Deer wintering areas provide a dense, consistent canopy that reduces snow depth and provides shelter, thereby minimizing the energy demands of deer. The increased use of winter trails observed by the RPF in recent years has stimulated this experimental management measure aimed at reducing the effects of recreation on deer winter survival.
“We are delighted to once again be providing groomed runs at Perry Hill,” said RPF Commissioner Michael Snyder. “At the same time, we seek to balance this important recreational opportunity with the habitat function of the plot.”
In this pilot program, two areas have been established at Perry Hill: a designated winter recreation area and a deer wintering area. The winter recreation area will focus on creating the ideal tread to accommodate groomed fat biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Scattered walking recreation will not be restricted in the deer wintering area, but it is important that visitors understand the need to limit disturbance in this area. The deer wintering area will be identified on the ground by signs. Information about management objectives and user ethics at Perry Hill will be available on interpretive panels at the trailhead gazebo.
“The benefits of public access that Perry Hill provides, including the parcel’s proximity to a population centre, and the large area of the property which is a deer wintering area represent an opportunity to demonstrate a balanced approach land management, serving multiple public purposes,” Snyder said.
“Last winter, WATA confirmed its commitment as corridor managers working with volunteers to maintain high quality tread on the winter trail network,” said Walter Opuszynski, FPR Forest Recreation Specialist . “Trail users responded by following management objectives and user ethics and it was determined from the data we collected that recreational use of the parcel was focused on managed trail corridors.”
The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance is the non-profit trail organization that helps FPR manage the Perry Hill trails. This winter, they will be responsible for signage, public information and trail maintenance. In addition, the local outdoor gear store, Bicycle Express, will provide grooming support and help with data collection.
“We hope that through this pilot effort, we can find a way for winter recreational use of Perry Hill to have less of an impact on wildlife,” said WATA Board Chairman John Duston. “Our community depends on the ability to enjoy the forests for our physical and mental health. Our native species rely on quality areas to congregate during the winter months.
FPR and WATA have established the following guidelines for user behavior:
All Recreational User Groups
- Respect the established deer wintering area by staying on maintained trails. Please focus your recreational activity on the following trail corridors: Main Climb, Campfire, S’Mores, Joe’s, Six Flags and Scotch Tape (see attached map). Staying on these trails will help improve the function of the deer wintering area on the east side of the parcel.
- Dogs: It is important to keep your dogs on a leash or leave them at home. Dogs can hunt wildlife and cause them extra stress during a very vulnerable time of year.
- The minimum tire width is 3.8 inches with a psi between 2 and 8 pounds.
- Helps maintain the groomed surface in good condition by refraining from riding in soft conditions. If your tire sinks more than an inch in the snow, your tire pressure may need to be reduced or the conditions may not be adequate for use.
Hikers, skiers and snowshoers
- Please do not use the trail if you cross the groomed surface more than 1 inch
Perry Hill’s management strategies will continue to be evaluated for future seasons based on monitoring data and user behavior, making user compliance with guidelines critical to a successful long-term outcome. For more information, please visit https://www.waterburytrails.com/winter-use.
The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) is responsible for conserving and managing Vermont’s forest resources, operating and maintaining the state park system, and promoting and supporting outdoor recreation for Vermonters and our visitors.
The Waterbury Area Trail Alliance (WATA) is committed to improving and expanding sustainable public trails for our local community. Our mission is to build and maintain recreational trails for a healthy, vibrant and sustainable future.
Source: Waterbury, VT – Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation 2/14/2022