• Bolton a diverse paradise
    By Linda Freeman
    CORRESPONDENT | November 11,2012
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    A cross country skier stops to read a trail map at Bolton.
    The buzz is about Bolton. It is about a decidedly Vermont story that begs a happy ending. It is about history, wildlife, recreation, community, volunteerism and the indomitable will to safeguard a lifestyle that both attracts and connects people to Vermont lands.

    The title of the story is a mouthful: Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Wildlife Habitat and Connectivity. I asked Elise Annes, Vice President for Community Relations of the Vermont Land Trust to tell me more.

    There is a large tract of land of 1,161 acres that lies between Mount Mansfield State Forest and Camel’s Hump State Park in north-central Vermont. The land represents facets of Vermont life that bind users to the area and put the state near the top of the bucket list of many visitors. There is, of course, the Bolton Valley that skiers know: downhill, Nordic and backcountry. There is also the Bolton that hikers, snowshoers, hunters, fishermen, bird watchers and naturalists know. There are groomed trails, unspoiled trails, forest, streams, (Joiner Brook watershed), wildlife, vegetation, and recreational opportunities for all levels of activities.

    What makes this area the background on which the story is being played out?

    “In February of 2011,” Annes said, “the owners of the Nordic Backcountry and Downhill areas offered the land for sale.” News travels fast. Ann Gotham, a woman of ingenuity and passion for these acres, spread the word and soon the Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry were organized. Many of these Friends were Old Goats (not old goats).

    “In 1960,” Annes said, “Gardiner Lane inspired a group, the ‘Old Goats,’ who cleared tracks, worked long hours and sparked a whole new group of volunteers who do trail maintenance.” It is common knowledge that any undertaking based on an ideal is only as good as the volunteer effort committed to that project. The Old Goats were, and continue to be, good, today expanding to include the Young Catamounts.

    Vermont Land Trust (VLT) entered the story. “VLT uses conservation as a tool to protect the land,” Annes said, and agreed to purchase the land then gift it to the state as part of Mt. Mansfield State Park with a “public access easement and to continue to offer Nordic skiing.”

    “Most of the time VLT doesn’t own the property but uses conservation as a tool to protect development of the property. Specific use is stated in the conservation easement.” Often these protected lands are the lands that define Vermont.

    Many have been attracted to Vermont because of the land, the values, the communities, and the opportunities that living in harmony with the natural world can provide. For Annes, her past active childhood translates into her present energetic family. Memories of skiing, running, paddling and hiking are what family is all about. “For us,”Annes said, “skiing has become the family activity – getting the kids into the woods, physical exercise, discovering the natural world. It’s crazy, in Vermont it’s so easy to do this. Just carve out the time.”

    Families tend to share. Otherwise costly equipment and appropriate clothing can often be purchased at ski and skate sales or swapped with others whose kids are leapfrogging from one age, one size, to another.

    Perhaps the intrinsic value of the woods and the activities connected with them is, after all, all about the children, the next generation, the next stewards of the land. Time spent outdoors is “critical family time,” Annes said. “It was for me when I was growing up and it is now too.”

    Outdoor experiences promote physical fitness and health at a time when they are desperately needed. Time in the backcountry mandates awareness of one’s surroundings, respect for the environment and encourages a sense of responsibility. Access is affordable and immediate.

    “Being able to access the backcountry is why we live in Vermont,” Annes said. There aren’t many places left where we can get lost for hours and establish connections with others who share the experience. Backcountry is unstructured, beautiful and natural. It has become my favorite place to be.”

    Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Wildlife Habitat and Connectivity land is under contract to VLT, which must raise $1.85 million. “We’re buying this for Vermont,” Annes said. “People place different values on community assets.” The task is not as daunting as it seems at first glance. The Vermont Housing Conservation Board has taken a huge chunk out of the fundraising with a large grant. Private and corporate donations are being gratefully accepted while a myriad of fundraising events are being held throughout the area.

    For example, In August, the Race to the Top of Mt. Mansfield raised $8,500 to add to the coffers. Films shown at Burr and Burton Academy (Nov. 15), the Savoy in Montpelier (Nov. 20) and Vermont College of Fine Arts (Nov. 30) donate admission fees to the cause. The highlight of the Onion River Sports Holiday Party will be a $1,000 raffle drawing to support the Bolton Nordic and Backcountry. It’s easy to be a part of this story.

    With only $300,000 to go, this story does, in fact, beg a happy ending.

    For more information go to www.vlt.org or contact Annes at elise@vlt.org.
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