READSBORO — The U.S. Forest Service is ready to move ahead on a multiyear plan for logging and trail work on some 67,000 acres in six southern Vermont towns now that it has cleared an environmental review.
The first phase of what is called the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Project includes reopening trails for recreation at the site of the former Dutch Hill downhill ski area in the Heartwellville section of Readsboro. It also calls for hiking, snowmobiling and ATV trails primarily in Readsboro and Woodford.
The Forest Service envisions a five- to seven-year effort.
David Francomb, Manchester District ranger in the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest region, signed off Oct. 25 on the long-planned series of projects in an area that extends into six towns: Readsboro, Stamford, Whitingham, Pownal, Woodford and Bennington.
The projects are all planned for Green Mountain National Forest land, while the entire project area includes privately owned land and parcels owned by towns or the state.
An environmental impact review found no significant negative impacts would result from the work, and a subsequent appeal period produced no objections.
Francomb said the Forest Service will now put together an implementation planning team to decide how to proceed with the first phase. That will involve working with a number of organizations and recreation groups, which in some cases will share the cost of projects or perform work on trails and other improvements.
At the former Dutch Hill site off Route 100, Francomb said his office has heard from ski groups and trail organizations interested in partnering in the creation of a year-round recreation trail system. The project does not involve private developers, he said.
Dutch Hill was one of the region’s early small downhill ski areas, operating from 1944 to 1985, before closing amid a series of mild winters and growing competition from larger areas like Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts that had chairlifts, more and longer trails, snowmaking and resort amenities.
The groups expected to participate in the variety of forest management projects across the area include the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, the Bennington Area Trail System, the Vermont All-Terrain Sportsman Association and the Catamount Trail Association, Francomb said.