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Working to protect Bolton's backcountry - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Working to protect Bolton's backcountry

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BOLTON, Vt. -

From a large group out for a morning ski on groomed tracks, to a solitary telemarker making tracks in the backcountry, Bolton Valley's Nordic trail system has -- for years -- provided a place to get away from it all.

"Oh it's just a phenomenal place," said Jeff Moeller from Massachusetts.

"There's so much variety in the terrain and its just so beautiful up there -- it's amazing," said Sue Moeller.

When word got out two years ago that the private partnership that owns the land and lets the Nordic Center use it was looking for a buyer, it sent a shockwave through the skiing community.

"The property was to be sold to a private individual and that individual planned to shut down public access to this property and that really took people by surprise and made them realize what was at risk," said Bob Heiser with the Vermont Land Trust. "The Friends of Bolton Valley formed almost overnight and had over a hundred people sign on immediately, and they really provided the energy behind not only getting the opportunity to save this land, but also doing a lot of the fundraising to make it happen."

The groups are now on the home stretch of a $1.8 million dollar campaign to buy the nearly 1,100 acres of land. The land would become part of the Mount Mansfield State Forest, and state would allow the Nordic Center to continue operating.

"There's hardly a property in this area that has kind of the diverse set of values that this property has -- first of all recreationally it speaks for itself, with over 90 kilometers of groomed and ungroomed trails -- its one of the largest nordic centers in the state," Heiser said.

And at 2,100 feet, it's also one of the highest, which means some of the most consistant snow in the region -- all within about 30 miles of about half the state's population.

Beyond recreation, the Land Trust says the property is a critical wildlife corridor -- sandwiched between Mt. Mansfield to the North and Camel's Hump State Park to the south.

Along with the property comes the legacy of the men and women that first blazed these trails more than half a century ago. "There has been quite a history of volunteerism and a lot of the community being very attached to this land, dating back to the 60s when Gardiner Lane, who is a bit of a legend around here, started cutting the trails and maintaining them with other retirees -- they called themselves the old goats," Heiser said.

So far some 900 individuals -- "Old Goats" -- and the next generation of so-called "Young Catamounts" -- have contributed to the cause.

"When we heard about that and heard that there was a kind of grassroots movement afoot -- we haven't been able to come up and contribute -- physically our time, but we definitely sent them money. Our yearly charity -- we wrote a check to the Land Trust," the Moellers said.

Protecting Bolton Valley's backcountry for future generations.

For more information click here.

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