Trails are Coming!

The Integrated Management Plan for Wildlife Habitat and Forestry Section 5 by Vermont Forestry Associates and dated September 1, 2016, is now in the hands of the Quechee Lakes Landowners Association Board (QLLA), and the Trail Committee chaired by trustee David Courtney. Now, if you think that introductory sentence was long, wait until you see the complexity of the report itself. There are species diameter tables, which indicate types, numbers, and sizes of trees in each of twelve sections. There is a custom soil analysis report for each, detailing differentiations between Agawam fine-sandy loam, Hitchcock silt loam, and a mind-boggling array of others. Midway through the document, I fully expected personal interviews with local beavers or moose. But none occurred, and I must say I was greatly disappointed. This is a 30-year management plan which guides the initial treatment of 780 acres of QLLA property dedicated to non-motorized recreational usage. Yes, members, Quechee Lakes amenities will just continue to get better!

Cultural features found throughout Section 5, such as stone walls, stone piles, cellar holes, and remnant barbed wire indicate that this area was involved in agricultural usage or sheep pasturage. Interestingly, none of these homesteads were shown on an 1869 map of roads and homesteads in Hartford. Thus these farms had already been abandoned by that time. The original 1984 agreement with the State of Vermont noted that management of this land was to be conducted to enhance the value of the property as wildlife habitat. This was fairly novel in its day as the State agreed to support development in exchange for protecting resources. The property is not currently – nor has it ever been – managed for wildlife, particularly for critical deer wintering habitat.

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The general approach will be to treat 90 acres every six years. Logging operations will disturb the forest making it unsightly in many cases. In fact, that is what they are supposed to do as part of the renewal process. Out of each 90-acre section, 26 acres will be severely reduced. The good news is that the present report has determined that 276 acres from the parcel are off-limits to cutting operations. Why, might you ask? Because hemlock is the preferred tree species for deer wintering areas in Vermont, and the availability of quality wintering areas is the limiting factor for deer in most of the state. Since only about 6% of Vermont’s land base is deer wintering area, the ability to recognize and manage these critical habitats is necessary to ensure the future wellbeing of the state’s deer herd. Much of our present trail system lies within that protected area. Isn’t that nice?

Current trail locations follow old logging trails for the most part, but do not always access some of the land’s most interesting natural features. Planned upgrades to the trail network are primarily relocations which will provide a better ski experience on trials that are easier to maintain. The formation of a Quechee Trails Club is being discussed. The club would be dedicated to helping with signage, education, maps, and simple maintenance of the trail system, thus giving both adults and children an opportunity for a more meaningful outdoor experience. More on this at a later date...

While the membership has indicated its desire for trails, the committee realizes that this does not always necessitate a rugged outdoor adventure. Sometimes you just want to take a stroll after dinner. Therefore, while improvements to Section 5 proceed over time, trail expansion and improvements will be taking place within the Quechee Lakes campus. Connectivity is a primary objective, so that a healthful, reasonable, and non-motorized experience can be accessed throughout our community.

See you on the trails! (And bring a chainsaw...)

– Cap’n Ron n


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