Mt. Philo State Park crowds lead to upgrades

CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) It's an easy hike with a great view, and that has a growing number of people flocking to Mt. Philo. More people visited the state park in the past two years, leaving the mountain a little too well-loved.

Proximity and accessibility are drawing more hikers, bikers and sledders to Mt. Philo than ever before.

"The view at the top is worth the walk up," said Kathy Allen of Shelburne.

She says it's sort of a gym for the locals.

"It's very close to Shelburne, it's close to Burlington. It's the shortest and quickest hikes you can fit in at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day," said Jonah Coch of Shelburne.

The mountain had a 30 percent uptick in visitors between 2018 and 2019 with more than 68,000 people hitting the trails and road in that time.

"Some of the trails are getting a little over-walked," Kathy Allen said.

Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation officials say that's because the trails were never designed for this kind of foot traffic.

"They probably were never even really built intentionally at all. They were just trails that happened from use," said the department's Reuben Allen.

That also means they're not positioned in the best places possible. A new long-range management plan will improve parking at the entrance, signage at the top, and space near the summit.

"The park belongs to the people. It's not mine. It doesn't belong to the parks division. We manage it for the people who use it. And these are things that will really enhance the recreational experience of the people that are going in there and using it," Reuben Allen said.

He says the plan will keep the park in good shape for the next two decades.

Locals say while they don't mind the current design, they're eager to see how it turns out.

"Perhaps the trails could be maintained a little better, if anything, but overall, it's maintained very well. They take really good care of it here, said Coch.

"Well, I like it the way it is, but I have no idea what they're going to change it to," said Chris Slesar of Monkton.

Reuben Allen says they're still working out design details, but they expect the project will begin this summer.

Taxpayer dollars will help fund the project, but we're told they don't know how much it will cost.

However, Allen estimates it will be a sizable sum of money.