Lower Gumball Trail has been closed to mountain biking, effective immediately. Please refrain from riding the bottom portion of the trail that is northeast of Old Center Fayston Road (to the right heading uphill) and stick to Upper Gumball and Too Tight which are further up and to the left (southwest) of Old Center Fayston Road.
The Mad River Riders and all other Vermont trail organizations rely on the generous goodwill of the private landowners across whose lands our networks pass. Maintaining positive relationships through good communication is a major part of our work.
Unfortunately, our execution has been uneven in recent years. What we thought of as adequate fell short of the ideal. As Covid restrictions on in-person meetings and booming trail usage spread our resources thin, this shortfall was magnified. We were unaware to what extent until Friday when a valued landowner partner, who has allowed the Lower Gumball Trail to cross their land for more than a decade, came across a pile of lumber that had been deposited on their land without their knowledge. The lumber was clearly organized for a building project they had not been consulted about.
The lumber and a plan to address a problematic muddy crossing came from a longtime Riders member who has been helping to maintain Gumball for years. However, he hadn’t communicated his plan with any MRR board members. As a result, our normal landowner communication process didn’t happen, giving the impression that the Mad River Riders were taking liberties with the permissions the landowner granted. They understandably want to maintain control of their land, and as a result have closed it to biking.
Any type of project, beyond minor shovel work or fallen tree clearing, that involves amending any part of a trail on private or public land, must go through a thorough review and communications process. The board works carefully to gain permissions from every landowner for any structure or change, so there is full understanding about exactly what is going to occur, how long it will take, and who will be involved in the project.
The landowner is completely justified in asserting control over their land after an incident like this, underscoring the importance that however well we love the trails we ride, any proprietary impulse to make any changes without permission has the potential to endanger our access to the land. Our organization should communicate this message consistently and clearly to our members. We are grateful to have a conversation with this landowner about how our communication fell well short of the mark, because it gives us the opportunity to examine our relations with all of our landowners to see where we can improve.
The closure of a beloved trail like Gumball serves as a reminder of how critical landowners are to the Mad River Valley trail network. The Mad River Riders board has expanded its membership and is rolling out a new, more systematic approach to landowner relations to ensure we keep them informed, acknowledged, appreciated, and supported. When enjoying the trails, please be respectful of all land and be especially respectful and courteous towards private landowners. Please do not undertake any trailwork beyond seasonal maintenance without engaging the MRR board.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the closure, as with any communication or questions regarding any trails we maintain.
Mad River Riders