MILTON — A recent survey conducted by Milton High School students shows there is demand not only from adults, but also from youth, for designated mountain bike trails in Milton.
As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development project that is completed in Mat Heald’s Global Studies 10 course, several sophomores presented data to the Selectboard that shows Milton students are interested in mountain biking.
To gage interest, the students sent a survey to their middle and high school peers and presented the results at the April 5 Selectboard meeting. Their survey received 100 responses.
To the question, “If Milton had bike trails, would you use them?” about 64% of respondents said yes.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they would help build the trails, and 54.5% said they would volunteer to maintain the trails once they were built.
The students and Milton Recreation Department recommend the trails be built at Bombardier Park. While the park’s current trails are multi-use, there are no mountain bike-specific trails. It is not ideal to have dog-walkers, hikers and mountain bikers sharing the same network.
The students suggested placing QR codes at trail markers. After scanning the code with a phone, riders could view a trail map and other information. This would prevent riders from getting lost and keep them away from private property, the students said.
Heald, who provided guidance to the students, said the goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development project is to help students recognize that even though they live in Milton, Vermont they can be part of a worldwide initiative to create a sustainable and equitable present and future.
“It also demonstrates that regardless of age, our students have the power to make a difference and effect change within our community and world,” Heald said.
Ryan Bushey, an MHS physics teacher and a member of the Milton Recreation Commission, also provided support to the students.
“I think these students did an amazing job putting together a lot of data and showing some support for the community,” Bushey said. “I just want to give them kudos for this project.”
Students are not the only ones who are interested in adding bike trails to Milton.
In 2019, the Milton Recreation Department updated its Master Plan by conducting a series of public meetings and distributing a survey.
During an open house, community members shared they would like to see general facility improvements such as more “trashcans, mountain bike trails and smoke-free policies.”
This input was added to the new Milton Recreation Master Plan which was adopted in January 2020. The plan includes a goal for the creation of bike paths and mountain bike trails.
During the April 5 meeting, Selectboard Clerk Chris Taylor voiced his support, and said he’d like to see bike recreation taken even a step further.
“This is a great initiative,” he said. “I'm all for more bike paths and mountain bike trails in Milton...I would even love to see a bike park like in Maple Street Park in Essex. I think it would get a ton of use here in town.”
Selectboard member John Fitzgerald agreed and said his two sons would utilize designated mountain bike trails in Bombardier Park.
“I have two boys that love to play video games, so every time they ask, ‘Can I go to the park and ride my bike?’ I say, ‘By all means, go to the park and ride your bike,’” Fitzgerald said. “To give them another place to ride would be fantastic, especially knowing that where they're riding would be designed for that purpose. It would be safer than what they're doing right now.”
Milton resident Tabatha Kittson joined the meeting to share that her son and his friends would absolutely make use of this type of trail.
Other towns in Chittenden County host designated mountain bike trail networks on municipal or public property.
Some networks, like Sunny Hollow in Colchester and Saxon Hill in Essex, are maintained by Fellowship of the Wheel, a non-profit that advocates for and maintains over 100 miles of public multi-use trails in the county.
Other trails, like those at Hinesburg Town Forest in Hinesburg or at Mobbs Farm in Jericho, are managed by town-sponsored committees.
Milton Recreation Director Jenna Tucker says the Recreation Department and the Recreation Commission hope to bring proposals for trail construction to the Selectboard this summer.
The first proposal, which the Recreation Commission is aiming to bring before the board next month, would be a “pilot” trail that will demonstrate that mountain biking can have minimal impact on the environment and would provide the recreational opportunities these students are looking for, Bushey said.