Reaction to governor’s veto of Act 250 reform
WOODSTOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - Hiking trails across the region are in the spotlight after Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order while vetoing an Act 250 reform bill.
“We are already seeing as many as 500 people a week using the trail,” said Randy Richardson of the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. He’s talking about the Ottauquechee River Trail. The 2.5-mile trail in Woodstock with views on the Billings Farm is the newest addition to the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. It’s considered a low impact trail, which means it did not need Act 250 approval.
“The trail could have been subject to an Act 250 review which could have slowed it down, maybe made it impossible to open this year and could have been a very expensive process,” Richardson said.
A bill reforming Act 250 was vetoed this week by Gov. Phil Scott. The bill addressed sustainable development of working forests and regulation of recreation trails. In explaining his veto, Scott said the bill created more confusion. Meanwhile, through executive order, the governor suspended certain Act 250 reviews of trails while the Legislature comes up with more comprehensive reform. That’s something Richardson says is a step in the right direction.
“The idea for us is to really move trails outside Act 250 review because we don’t really think it is a good fit,” Richardson said.
Jamey Fidel, on the other hand, disagrees with the governor.
“I think in the end our feeling is that H.926 was a much more comprehensive and better approach and more durable approach for the trail groups,” Fidel said.
Fidel is with the Vermont Natural Resources Council. That group-- as well as others focused on sustainability-- is disappointed with Scott’s veto.
“The package that was in 926 was actually carefully crafted to give the relief that trail groups needed in the interim and also work on an alternative program,” Fidel said.
Outdoor recreation, of course, is a big part of the Green Mountain economy.
“The core of the business is, of course, our foot shop and our footwear and hiking,” said Gavin Vaughan of Woodstock Sports.
Vaughan is a tech at Woodstock Sports. He is often out on the trails.
“It is like my therapeutic, you know, switch off your brain, get out in the woods,” he said.
And trail advocates say that a silver lining to the entire debate is that politicians, conservationists and those who love to hike are all talking about the important role trails play in the region.
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