Kingdom Trails promotes ride with gratitude code of conduct

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Photo: Biking on the Kingdom Trails in Winter. Photos courtesy Kingdom Trail Association.

by Olga Peters, Vermont Business Magazine “It was a wonderful summer,” said Kingdom Trails Executive Director Abigail Long.

With state travel restrictions lifted, more neighbors from New Hampshire, New York, and Maine returned to use more than 100 miles of trails open to non-motorized activities, she said.

“However, we still missed our neighbors to the north, in Canada, and we do know that Canadians make up about 38% of our trail users,” she added. “So that was still quite the impact.”

Founded in 1994, the nonprofit Kingdom Trails Association was established to support the health of local communities through outdoor recreation and economic development.

Long said a previous economic impact study showed the trails have approximately a $10 million direct economic impact on the region. Trail users from out of state stay in the area an average of three days. They spend an average of $115 a day.

Photo: Biking on the Kingdom Trails in Winter. Photos courtesy Kingdom Trail Association.

In 2016, Kingdom Trails was one of the organizations that participated in an economic impact study compiled by Camoin Associates for the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council.

“And we know that kingdom trails on a broader scale beyond economic impact. We help identify the Northeast Kingdom as a place to live, work, and play,” she said.

The trails are popular with cyclists in the summer.

When the pandemic started in 2020, the organization quickly adjusted its operations to meet state safety guidelines.

Long said the staff felt staying open was crucial to supporting the community because outside activities provided an avenue for people to care for their physical and mental health during the lockdown.

This summer, staff were busy building a little more than five miles of new trails.

The organization also tackled recommendations that emerged from a feasibility study funded by a $75,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant.

Completed earlier this year, the study dove into the issues around road congestion and safety.

Long said Kingdom Trails had received feedback from community members with concerns about driving on local roads filled with trail users.

The trails run through the towns of East Haven, Burke, Lyndon, and Kirby.

“So we were able to make some connector trails, which means getting bikers off the roads, the dangerous roads, and getting them on parallel trails,” she said. “So there’s not that trail user – vehicle conflict.”

The organization also installed better signage wherever the trails crossed a road, telling trail users to come to a complete stop before crossing. Rumble strips using local cobblestones were also added to the end of each trail where it crosses a road, Long said.

Long said she is most proud of Vermont Adaptive Sports and the Kelly Brush Foundation choosing Kingdom Trails to host an adaptive mountain bike demo day.

“We learned what our trails need to do in order to be more inclusive and welcoming, adaptive disabled riders,” she said.

Kingdom Trails upgraded some of its existing trails by working with Vermont Adaptive Sports and the Kelly Brush Foundation. It now offers 53 miles of adaptive mountain bike trails.

The foundation also hosted its first mountain bike camp at the trails. Long said folks from Alaska and Oregon traveled to the area to take part in the camp.

“It’s something we’re really honored and privileged to be able to do,” she said.

Kingdom Trails has introduced a new code of conduct: ride with gratitude.

The organization is part of Bike Borderlands, a mountain bike collaborative of networks from northern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“We all got together originally for rural economic development, and through that, we want to attract trail users to attract tourists,” Long said. “But we want to do it in a sustainable way. So we want people to come and respect the communities that, that they’re visiting.”

The new code of conduct aims to send a unified message to trail users to enjoy their visit and be mindful.

Riding the trails is a privilege, not a right, she added.

Long thanked the 104 private landowners who allow Kingdom Trails to use their properties.

“What makes Kingdom trails, Kingdom trails, is that our community members – our own neighbors – are who allowed this opportunity to be possible,” she said.

Photo: Kingdom Trails in Winter. Photos courtesy Kingdom Trail Association.

To learn more about Ride with Gratitude, visit www.kingdomtrails.org/ride-with-gratitude(link is external).

 



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