The Kingdom Trail Association (KTA) will be hosting a public workshop to collect input on the community’s vision for the future of the trail system.
The KTA, in partnership with the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce, is working through a community planning process supported by SE Group—a consulting firm that specializes in community engagement and recreation planning. The year-long planning process will address region-wide issues and opportunities concerning trail amenities, access points, community connections, traffic, circulation, and safety. The public is invited to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns as the process kicks off to help establish the foundation of the plan. The workshop will be an open house format with no opening or closing presentations, so attendees may drop by anytime. This is a family friendly event!
Location: Burke Town School Gym
Date and Time: Tuesday, February 11 at 5:00-7:30 p.m.
Kingdom Trails is a world-class trail system deeply intertwined with the local community. Local community members have banded together to develop the 100+ mile trail system and 97 private landowners allow trails to pass through their property. The user experience extends well beyond the trail network itself to the community fabric and tourism infrastructure that surround it. Users drive and ride along local roads, visit lodging and restaurants, and can overflow the village parking areas.
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Over the past few years Kingdom Trails has become one of the most popular mountain bike destinations in the United States, with over 100,000 visits per year. Visitation is growing sharply, and annual visitation grew by 132 percent between 2013 and 2018. With this growth, the community has experienced increasing impacts – both positive and negative – from the increasing number of users of the trail system. The trail system generates tremendous economic impact for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and is a fantastic recreation resource for the community. However, the existing level of use places pressure on the community, its infrastructure, and the landowners. In December 2019, landowners along Darling Hill Road chose to revoke bike access to trails on their property due in part to this increased pressure.
The Kingdom Trail Association (KTA) has been aware of the issues associated with this increasing pressure and was seeking to address them prior to the landowners’ recent announcement. The OneBurke visioning process formally identified these emerging issues in 2017 and the KTA has since sought funding to study and plan for improvement of the system through a community-led planning process. Parking and circulation issues have been studied in the East Burke Village and the KTA has been an integral partner, alongside the Town of Burke, in the rehabilitation of East Darling Hill Road.
In 2019, the KTA, in conjunction with the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce, applied for and received a USDA Rural Business Development Grant to help fund a Kingdom Trails Network Capacity Study to help provide an understanding of the capacity of the trail network and associated community infrastructure. The study will also contemplate strategies to address the growing number of users and address capacity imbalances in the system with an eye towards improving quality of life in the region.
In November 2019, KTA and the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce retained the services of SE Group, a recreation and community planning firm, to undertake the study and planning process. SE Group has strong experience in analyzing the capacity of recreational systems and leading community-driven planning processes. SE Group is working with Stantec, a transportation engineering firm, to better understand the parking, traffic, and crossing issues associated with the trail network.
The study is intended to address issues and capacity of the Kingdom Trails network and enhance the network’s positive impact on the host communities. This study will explore a new Welcome Center location, access portal improvements, connections and crossings, and opportunities to disperse users.
Key project elements include data collection on existing levels of use and experience in both winter and summer, engagement with the host communities, a network analysis that includes traffic and parking, and conceptual designs for potential improvements. As the landowners and community are at the heart of the Kingdom Trails system and they are experiencing this increasing pressure first-hand, input from all will drive this planning process.
Throughout, the project team will seek input from landowners, community members, and users on a vision, existing issues with the system, and potential improvements. Given the many facets of the Trails network beyond the trails themselves, the study will engage local business owners, community partners, and other stakeholders as well. The study kicked off in December 2019 and is expected to wrap up at the end of the summer 2020 season.
The project team has developed the following goals for the project:
- Create a safer and less congested high-quality experience for those walking, biking, and driving
- Strengthen and broaden the economic impact of the trail network by improving the trail to business connectivity and spreading the economic impact across the region
- Relieve the pressure and stress currently being placed on landowners, communities, and roads by planning for managed growth consistent with and respecting the quality of life in the communities
- Balance the capacities of the system components (trail network, hotels, parking, roads, etc.)
- Better disperse use and parking across the trail network and communities
- Develop the necessary infrastructure to accommodate high use areas including a welcome center, enhanced access portals, trail connections, and on-road infrastructure
To begin engaging the community in this process, KTA is holding a Visioning Open House and Public Workshop on Feb. 11, 2020 from 5–7:30 PM at the Burke Town School Gym. The event is a family-friendly open house format, where attendees can drop in at any time to provide their input. Interactive stations will ask attendees about their vision for the trail network, issues they’re experiencing, amenities, and other opportunities. Large-scale maps will be provided for attendees to indicate pinch points, challenging crossings, and areas to disperse use away from and to. Members of the project team and the KTA Staff and Board of Directors will also be available for one-on-one discussions.
Throughout this process, there will be many more opportunities for the public to provide input. An interactive Storymap website about the study has just been launched on the KTA website. The Storymap website includes project updates, interactive mapping exercises, upcoming public engagement events, and opportunities to provide feedback for those unable to attend the Visioning Open House or other future events. In March and April, the project team will hold Host Community Summits, when the project team will tour each of the host communities; Burke, Lyndon, Kirby, and East Haven, meet with stakeholders, and hold community open houses to delve deeper into that community’s specific issues and opportunities. Following these events, the project team will incorporate all the public input and analyze data to develop draft solutions to present and review with the public in July.
To stay up to date on the project process and future opportunities, go to www.kingdomtrails.org/networkcapacity