WALLINGFORD — A group of outdoor lovers wanting to raise the profile of White Rocks National Recreation Area are looking for some help.
Nate Rand, a Wallingford native and outdoor enthusiast, said in an interview Thursday that he and his friend, fellow Wallingford resident, Jeremy Krohn, have been talking on and off about forming the White Rocks Outdoor Collaborative since 2015. They’ve recently formed a Facebook group bit.ly/1010whiterocks to gather potential members and coordinate their planning efforts.
“Right now it’s in the formative phase,” said Rand, adding that about 100 people joined the Facebook group in the first few days of its creation. The next step, he said, is to find out how many people are interested enough to volunteer their time and perhaps serve as board members. One vision for the group is incorporating it as a nonprofit.
The group’s working mission statement reads: “The White Rocks Outdoor Collaborative (WROC) is a collection of people who are passionate about recreation. We are hikers, bikers, skiers, paddlers and more. WROC’s mission is to promote and develop outdoor recreation opportunities in The Green Mountain National Forest’s ‘Robert T. Stafford White Rocks National Recreation Area’ and the surrounding communities.”
Plenty of people are familiar with the “White Rocks” hiking trails, he said, but comparatively few are aware that the White Rocks National Recreation Area extends much farther to the south and is part of the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest. There are many opportunities to hike, snowshoe and cross-country ski in that area that could either be maintained by a local club or expanded upon in the future.
Krohn said in a Thursday interview it’s not yet known whether the club will stand on its own as an independent organization or seek to become a chapter of another group like the Vermont Mountain Biking Association or the Catamount Trails Association.
Krohn, who works for the Forest Service but isn’t speaking for it in this capacity, said the White Rocks Outdoor Collaborative (WROC) would like to help the Forest Service in maintaining and possibly developing the trail system around the White Rocks, especially on the 481-acre Fernfield Farms parcel.
The Wallingford Select Board was recently convinced to support the purchase of the Fernfield Farms parcel by the National Forest. The sale is managed by the Trust for Public Land and will likely take a few years to complete, according to past statements made by Trust personnel. The board had some concerns over tax implications, but further research showed the loss to the town coffers would be slight, even without federal reimbursement.
He said the Forest Service prefers to work with groups who are organized and dedicated.
With some work, Krohn said the trails in the White Rocks area could be made to accommodate a broader range of people, specifically those with mobility issues who use wheelchairs or other devices to get around.
Right now, WROC doesn’t want to limit itself to expanding any one area of recreation. Krohn said these types of groups work better the more inclusive they are. If all goes well, Wallingford could become a popular destination for hikers, bicyclist, snowshoers, skiers and the like, who would probably patronize the town’s eateries and shops, thus improving the local economy.
Rand said reaction opportunities were identified as a priority by the community during forums held last year, organized by the Vermont Council on Rural Development.