Interview: Abby Long, Executive Director of the Kingdom Trail Association

Feb 6, 2020
by Brice Shirbach  
photo courtesy of Kingdom Trail Association
Abby Long has thrived in her role as executive director of the Kingdom Trail Association, and is optimistic in her approach to current issues at hand. Photo courtesy of Kingdom Trail Association.


Taking its name from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the Kingdom Trail Association has been providing mountain bikers with the opportunity to explore some of the country's most beautiful and iconic landscapes for over 25 years. Founded in 1994, the KTA was built to help manage relationships among the private landowners that make up the overwhelming majority of land the trail network has been built upon, and provide cyclists from around the world with a world-class experience in the Northeastern United States while showcasing the area's natural beauty and stimulating the local economy. Decades later, it's clear that those original visionaries were on to something.

Numerous studies have been conducted over the years that indeed show the profound economic impact these trails have had on the town of East Burke, VT in the heart of the Kingdom Trails. In 2016, a statewide study conducted by Camoin Associates, an agency specializing economic and fiscal impact analyses, was paid for by the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council. The Kingdom Trail Association was one of four trail networks to participate in the study, and among the results it was determined that the Kingdom Trails hosted approximately 94,000 trail user in 2015, primarily from Spring through Autumn, and peaking during the summer months.

As recently as 2019, the Kingdom Trail Association published a community report, highlighting their 25 years of existence, and showing just how powerful an economic asset the trails have proven to be in that time, with estimated impact upwards of $10 million in 2018 alone. The region played host to nearly 140,000 visits that year, with 84% coming from out of state. The ever increasing surge in popularity of the trails was profound and categorically unmitigated.

On November 21st of 2019, three landowners informed the Kingdom Trail Association that they would no longer allow for cyclists to access the trails located within their respective property boundary lines. A 4th landowner, whose property ran adjacent to the aforementioned collective, joined their ranks a few weeks later on December 16th. The letters did not include any specific reasons for the restricted access. On January 17th it was announced that the enormously popular NEMBA Fest, an annual celebration and fundraiser for both the Kingdom Trail Association and New England Mountain Bike Association with upwards of 4,000 participants based out of Darling Hill, would be cancelled for 2020. On January 23rd, the KTA finally issued an open letter to the community taking complete responsibility for having "been slow to respond to issues and concerns and we acknowledge our lack of voice and leadership", and promising "to be more responsive and transparent as we roll out plans and address challenges."

Speculation has run rampant in the time since this information became public knowledge, and while the Kingdom Trail Association has yet to update their trail map, it is clear that mountains bikers have indeed lost access to several classic trails and routes on Darling Hill, including the Troll Stroll, Tody's Tour, and Tap n Die, with the connectivity between the Darling Hill ridge line and the town itself now severed. In total, approximately 13 miles of trail have been lost to mountain bikes.

Abigail Long came on board as executive director for the Kingdom Trail Association in February of 2018, having previously held the same title at the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Leadville Race series. She and her husband came to East Burke from Colorado, where she has acclimated to life in the Northeast Kingdom rather quickly. In September of 2019, the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce presented Abby with the "Citizen of the Year" award during the Fall Festival, recognizing her as an "exuberant and thoughtful advocate for the community." Abby and the rest of the Kingdom Trail Association now face what is regarded by many as perhaps the most pressing crisis in all 26 years of the KTA's existence, and have been hard at work developing a plan moving forward for both the Kingdom Trails as well as the community, making a concerted effort to emphasize their dedication to the landowners who make the enormously popular network of trails possible in the first place. Abby was gracious enough to take some time to address many of the concerns that have been expressed by cyclists around the world, and offer as much clarification on the matter as she could.

The best town ever East Burke VT surely is in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods
Mountain biking has become the largest economic driver for this small and stunning Vermont community, with lodging, restaurant, and retail services all benefiting enormously from the influx of visiting cyclists to the region.

The best town ever East Burke VT surely is in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods
The best town ever East Burke VT is surely in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods
John Worth and Jim O'Reilly are among the original visionaries behind the Kingdom Trails, and are both business owners who rely heavily on the success of this trail network.

What has happened as far as communication between the Kingdom Trail Association and the four landowners who have pulled bikes off of their trails?


Abby Long: I have of course reached out many times, and at this time they're asking for some space and I want to be respectful of that, but we have not been able to sit down with them. There have been some folks in the community that are close to the landowners who are also advocates of Kingdom Trails, and have been able to sit down and learn a bit. We've been able to get a sense of the landowners' concerns from those conversations, which we are grateful for.

My goal right now is to let them be, and I want to show them and the entire community - and the rest of our landowners - that we're listening and we're taking action. I want to prove that we're striving to make amends and these drastic changes, these improvements that are much needed, quite frankly, and I agree with them. When I arrived at Kingdom Trails, things were coming to a head, and I believe these landowners' decisions didn't happen overnight for them either. This has been brewing for years.

You guys wrote an open letter to the community, and in it you acknowledge having been slow to respond to issues and concerns, as well as a lack of voice and leadership on behalf of the Kingdom Trail Association. Are you able to elaborate on that?


Abby: Absolutely. We have experienced, in terms of our visitor rates, exceptional growth over the years. That is really exciting as far as economic opportunities go, but it was ultimately unsustainable growth.

Businesses were thriving as was the Kingdom Trail Association, but with that comes some challenges. For example, Kingdom Trails doesn't own a single parking lot or even own a parking space. We don't own any of our facility buildings, and to me, that's not sustainable. I want to show the community that we're here, that we're making a commitment to them, and so I really think we need to almost pump the brakes, and take a good hard look at ourselves and really make some investments in the community in order to fix this.

We had over 100 miles of trails, and we still have over 80 miles of trails now. And once you're out on the trails, riding or running or hiking, I think you do have a sense that the numbers are dispersed, so our trails may be able to manage the capacity, but the town cannot, and that's where we need to focus our attention: the trail amenities. You know, we're world leaders in trail building and maintaining, but it has to coincide with proper infrastructure, and I think that's where we're going to be putting a lot of our efforts.

NEMBA Fest 2015
NEMBA Fest 2015
Mountain bikers recently lost access to approximately 13 miles of trail along Darling Hill, which include many of the area's most popular trails including "Tap N Die" and "Troll Stroll".

The best town ever East Burke VT surely is in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods
Access from Darling Hill to downtown via singletrack has also been severed as a result of the trail closures.

Am I right in my understanding that it's hard for you guys to incentivize private landowner involvement? There are no major financial incentives, correct?


Abby: You hit it on the head. This is something I struggle with a lot. Our landowners are all in a non-binding agreement with us, which I think is actually really special and helps makes Kingdom Trails and our community unique. Yes, we thank them publicly and we throw them an annual celebration to honor them, but the state of Vermont does not allow for compensation.

A reason why all trails in the state of Vermont are able to exist is through the Vermont statute for landowner liability protection, and I think this stems from traditional sports like hunting, but recreational trails also fall under this protection, so landowners are not liable for injuries that might occur on their property as a result of recreation. That is especially helpful for the Kingdom Trails.

We do have additional insurance that we cover our landowners with, but the state statute is really why trails are allowed to be on private property, but what would jeopardize this policy is that landowners are not allowed to receive compensation for the recreation or else they lose this protection. This is something that a lot of trail groups in the state, Kingdom Trails, VMBA chapters, Green Mountain Clubs, and VAST have to work around. Between us all are thousands of private landowners.

The landowners are obviously aware of the lack of any financial incentives when they agree to any private land easements, correct?


Abby: They are, but I definitely hear rumblings. I know it’s something that frustrates them. We have been around for over 25 years, and there are many landowners that have businesses around the area that benefit through the number of folks that visit. There are also landowners who don't own businesses and aren't benefiting in any way financially, but they are seeing pressure and stress being placed on their properties from recreational use.

What kind of feedback have you guys received from other landowners, aside from the four who have removed mountain biking from their trails? I'm sure there are plenty of other opinions from other landowners on this, and I'm sure you've heard some of that as well as the local businesses.


Abby: You know, we've definitely upped our communication with our landowners because of this issue. I'm trying to stay positive, and I say to myself, "This is a blessing in disguise," even though it doesn't feel like one right now, but I am trying to stay calm and tell myself, "This is our chance and we need to seize it," and show folks like I said earlier, that we're trying to make those improvements by communicating with our landowners more, listening to their concerns, and being able to address them much more quickly. But yes, the landowners that restricted access are not alone in their opinions. There are other landowners who definitely have concerns as well.

We had a study done in 2016 that shows we had an over $10 million direct economic impact. That wasn't the Kingdom Trail Association getting that money, it was the area making money on gas, and lodging, and food, and maple syrup. I think there's some concern in the air among businesses, and especially lodging with NEMBA Fest being canceled, and that concerns us as well. That's why we're still, as we make these changes, wanting to let people know that we're alive and well, and we still have those 80 plus miles of trails, which is more miles of trails than many other networks in the area. This doesn't include Burke Mountain, which is a whole other experience. We’re just reassuring folks that we're not going anywhere and that we're only going to get better.

What kinds of lessons have you guys learned from this experience, particularly in terms of unchecked growth, and how does that impact efforts to educate mountain bikers moving forward?


Abby: I think we've learned a lot of lessons. The first is the importance of two-way communication between our landowners and our community. We really need to listen. We need to take our direction from them, and engage them more. We wrote about creating a landowner committee and having consistent communication through public forums, the first of which is coming up on February 11th.
We can't just go full steam ahead on our own. We need to take all thoughts and considerations into account, and make sure we're progressing responsibly, and that's through collaboration and communication.

How do you guys take what you've learned and share that messaging with the scores of people coming here from out of town?


Abby: That's something that Kingdom Trails takes full responsibility for. While that open letter was beautiful and really well received, we should have come out with it three weeks prior. There was a lot of finger pointing going on in the time between the news breaking and our open letter, and that’s on us.

Another reason we need to pump the brakes and audit ourselves is so that we can more effectively convey that riding these trails is not a right, but instead a privilege, and it’s because of our private landowners. Riders are guests who are invited to experience our beautiful landscape and community, so we need to put that in front of the trail users' face immediately and that's through education efforts. We can also tell that story through social media and our website. We are developing a code of conduct that we hope trail users will initial and sign so there are some expectations and bullet points to hold them accountable.

Then there's our Trail Ambassador Program. We've had about a dozen ambassadors working weekends and Monday holidays in previous years. We've always had that program, but their efforts lately have shifted to parking cars because that was a desperate priority lately. But we need to have not only that management in town, but also more of a presence out on the trails, at trailheads greeting people, educating them, letting them know where they can and cannot go, educating them on why they should be purchasing a membership to support trail maintenance and trail management, and just information in general. We are hoping to expand that program and make it more of a stewardship program, and get people out there advocating for and taking care of the trails, taking care of the people, and above all else, taking care of our landowners.

Are you aware of any other places that lean so heavily on private land? Does that kind of put the Kingdom Trail Association in uncharted territory in your estimation?


Abby: I think that much of New England is pretty similar. There's a lot of private land in this part of the country, and Kingdom Trails isn't alone. I listed all those other Vermont trail groups with whom we have joined forces in our efforts to advocate for private landowner protection. There's also something we joined called the Borderlands, which is a pretty new effort, and it's all of these mountain bike networks from northern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, actually even southern Quebec working to advocate for folks to come to the “Northern Borders” region because it is an extremely rural area and faces persistent economic and social challenges. I believe the majority of those networks are all due to the generosity of private land.

This is a very different dynamic for me having come from Colorado where I could leave my driveway and be on public land that was the size of Vermont. I have been looking at Washington State recently, because going back to that private landowner compensation that we can't quite navigate around yet, they have something called “current use”, which Vermont does too, encouraging tax breaks for agriculture and forestry on private land, yet Washington State includes recreation. It's a great example to look towards that maybe one day Vermont could aim for.

Can you describe the landowner committee and really some of the specifics in terms of how it's going to operate and how it will function?


Abby: That's something we're grappling with, and that's why we're looking to a public forum to actually get advice from the landowners on how they'd like it to look like. But it's definitely going to be an advisory committee that our board and our staff can look to for guidance. We're also going to have to balance it. We have landowners that have hundreds and hundreds of acres with miles and miles of trails, and we have landowners with two acres and an eighth of a mile, but that eighth of a mile may be crucial for a connection. So we have to be able to balance all those different types of voices. That's something we're hopeful to form with the aid of the landowners.

One of the things that comes up pretty frequently is the impact of something like a NEMBA Fest and other events can have on East Burke. You guys also host Winterbike annually.


Abby: Oh yeah, thank you. We are still super excited for Winterbike. We didn't cancel and we're so happy about that. We have relocated though. We'll be hosting in downtown East Burke on Mike's Tiki Bar property, which is a great location this year because in lieu of having restricted access to fat biking up on Darling Hill, we actually looked to our landowners in our White School section of our trail network, and they were thrilled and welcomed grooming on their property. So we're actually able to offer just as many miles as we have in years’ past of groomed fat bike trails. I'm super spoiled because the trails are right out of my backyard. They're new and it's exciting.

Our trail manager was nervous because it was new terrain and he hadn't explored that yet, and snow grooming is a much different beast compared to working on trails in the summer. He's just over the moon about how successful these new trails that we're able to offer are, and landowners are too, and I think the businesses have been grateful that there's some winter traffic in town. It's always good to shake things up so things don't get stale, and we're so grateful to Mike at the Tiki Bar for being willing to help. He's excited too. We host that event with MTBVT, and I think again, we're all pretty excited for the change.

As far as NEMBA Fest goes though, can you talk about some of what went into the decision to cancel? I've heard you talk about the strain that it not only puts on Darling Hill those properties, but it also must put a strain on the day to day lives of the people who call this place home.


Abby: Canceling that weekend was definitely a decision that came out after we learned about the restricted access. There were some advocates in town who were able to learn some of the concerns from the landowners, and NEMBA Fest was definitely detrimental to their everyday life, so that became a concern that we needed to address. Also knowing where we could host a festival that was flanked with restricted access to mountain biking, because if you're unable to have trails around the entire event, we'd be forcing bike traffic onto the road and that's something we've been looking to mitigate for the past couple years.

We did look at other locations. Burke Mountain is welcome to the idea of hosting it in the future. They're hosting the Enduro World Series this August, which is so exciting for them and for the community. They just were unsure of how the land would take to a festival in June. It might be too wet or just not prepared in time to host that many folks, so they really want to explore that for themselves this year. We'll look into that next year with them.

The pressure and the stress that NEMBA Fest puts on not just the private properties but the rural infrastructure of the Vermont village that we live in is immense, so there were a lot of things we had to take into consideration. It was a hard decision, but I believed it was the right one, especially considering the long-term sustainability of our trail network.

NEMBA Fest 2015
NEMBA Fest was a Darling Hill mainstay close to a decade.

NEMBA Fest 2015
NEMBA Fest 2015

NEMBA Fest 2015
NEMBA is currently looking for a new location to host the festival in 2021 and beyond.

How were those conversations with the New England Mountain Bike Association? Would you say that NEMBA was pretty understanding?


Abby: They were extremely understanding and helpful too in this situation. This wasn't a decision that we just came to immediately. There were many conversations. Like I said we looked at many other options and considerations, and also with our other partner, the Wildflower Inn, who was the landowner that allowed us to host on the property. I think everyone understands that we did not want to risk or jeopardize the rest of the trail network or the future of the trail network for one weekend.

It was such a hard decision too because this is a main fundraiser of Kingdom Trails for the entire year that helps us maintain and build more trails, so a lot of thought went into this. We engaged our community and other landowners too. We asked for opinions. We started doing what we said we're going to do. We're going to take our lead from them, and that was the feedback that we received.

I get the sense that you guys were a bit handcuffed to NEMBA Fest and you weren't able to be as productive with developing and building new trails and things of that nature because of the spent time building up to this big weekend every year. I can only imagine what the cleanup efforts were like and how exhausted you guys must have been afterwards. Without NEMBA Fest what do you expect to see productivity-wise from the Kingdom Trails Association and the trail crew?


Abby: We have a staff in the summer months that grows to 30 people, and that includes trail crew welcome center staff, ambassadors, along with our regular full-time folks, all of whom devote all of their time a solid two weeks leading up to the event, and this doesn't even count Lilias, our marketing and events manager organizing and planning this for literally an entire year. She gets to work on the next NEMBA Fest as soon as it’s over.

We are very excited to be able to gain that time back, and put it towards some new efforts because since we are trying to refocus and bring our attention back to our community. We brought back annual volunteer days every summer, but we will look to engage our community more and have folks join us for monthly or weekly volunteer days. We hope it will give the community a new sense of ownership of the trails as they're a part of building or cleaning or maintaining the trails.

We also have an AmeriCorps youth education outreach coordinator who's been in the schools every day, and she gets kiddos out on the trails every single day. She's able to teach some environmental experiential education while out there, and so we will be putting some energy towards more of that, and hopefully allowing for it to go beyond youths,. Adding some adult programming would be healthy as well.

It's that blessing in disguise even though it doesn't always feel like it. It's kind of re-energizing to think of new initiatives we can bring to the forefront again.

Do you think that being in a close-knit community like East Burke actually helps with getting through something like this?


Abby: I think so. I think that the tight-knit, smaller community has been helpful in immediately addressing some of the concerns of the community and the landowners. That’s not to discount what we're hearing online, because we are actually reading and learning from the comments on social media.

Our trail users are extremely valuable as well. Without people coming and joining us and experiencing our trails, the region wouldn't be thriving. I think one of the first things to address that is through the open letters that we've been publishing, not just to our local community, but to trail users elsewhere as well. We have the public forum coming next week, and for folks who can't attend, they are still able to submit feedback through a website we made that's dedicated to that feasibility and capacity study, so we do hope to gain a lot of thoughts, suggestions, and opinions from that population as well.

Winterbike 2015
Despite the challenges at hand, Winterbike is alive and well, with a new location in town and brand new trails now available for fatbiking.

Winterbike 2015
Winterbike is scheduled for Saturday, February 22nd from 8am-4pm.

What do you want people to know about how you guys are moving forward?


Abby: You know, I think by no means will it be easy to navigate this. It is a challenge and it is stressful because we know we must do right by the community, and there are a lot of folks in the region that depend upon the economic value that we bring. So we’re really trying to manage this situation with grace and civility.

We also need to remember to listen. This is an opportunity we need to seize. This is our chance to reset by not losing sight of why we exist and who we exist for. Our purpose is to uplift the community, and therefore we need to listen to them, engage with them, and take direction from them.

All the while we need to make sure that folks around the world know that we're still alive and well, and that we still welcome everybody to come enjoy our incredible terrain and beautiful landscape and amazing, unique Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont.

It's not like there's not room for additional growth and additional trails to come in.


Abby: No, definitely not. I mean, we have some things on the docket this summer, particularly some collaborative efforts we're doing with the neighboring towns and with other landowners that are really exciting.

I would think that while you have to acknowledge the challenging time currently, there's no reason to lose hope that you're not going to come out of this stronger.


Abby: Darling Hill is stunning. It is absolutely stunning and it is home to some of the original trails, some really fun trails, and this restricted access is difficult to swallow for a lot of people. Folks are upset because they may have lost some of their favorite routes. I'm a creature of habit too, and I do the same loop oftentimes after work, and that route has now been disrupted. However, we're going to show people that we still offer an amazing experience for all levels. We're going to work hard over the next couple months before the summer season opens to create and show off some of these new routes and get everyone excited so that they still come up and support our amazing region.


For membership, landowner, and event information, please visit the Kingdom Trail Association website.

Follow the KTA on Facebook for further updates on this matter as well as daily trail condition reports.

On Tuesday, February 11 the Kingdom Trail Association will be hosting a public workshop to collect input on the community’s vision for the future of the trail system. The event will be held at the Burke Town School Gym between 5:00-7:30 pm and is open to the public. For more information on the Network Capacity Study, as well as public input opportunities, check out the project website.



165 Comments

  • 50 3
 If Kingdom Trails board of directors didn't see this coming 3 yeas ago then they had their eyes willingly shut.....
I am from the area and it was totally clear to me.
Too many people who have ZERO respect for the landowners and townspeople. ZERO!

Multiple times I have tome to a road crossing (state highway/ 50MPH zone) where there is a group of 10-15 people standing in the road blocking traffic; a car comes and has to stop for the group. They move to let the car through and then right back in the road blocking traffic again.....

I watched a guy come out of the trail directly into traffic in front of a state trooper; then he cuts off the same trooper so he could cross the road. Trooper jumped out of his car and started screaming at the guy.....

Groups of 13-15 riding uphill on the down hill only trails; who feel like you are the a*shole for not allowing them to proceed uphill.....

Trail closures for a wedding on one of the properties..... lets just ride around the rope and closed sign, tell the guy who reminds us that is closed to "f*ck off we'll ride where we want."

Have a powerbar and throw the wrapper on the ground......

ZERO RESPECT!
  • 3 44
flag mi-bike (Feb 6, 2020 at 6:10) (Below Threshold)
 ”Too many people who have ZERO respect for the landowners and townspeople. ZERO!
...
Groups of 13-15 riding uphill on the down hill only trails...”

Not sure what’s the connection?
  • 4 2
 @mi-bike: Read again. He says that people go UPhill on a DOWNhill ONLY trail and swear at people coming down... Come on, that minimum respect.
  • 2 40
flag mi-bike (Feb 6, 2020 at 6:35) (Below Threshold)
 @cool3: no, YOU read again.

He says that people going uphill swear at people going downhill. that’s ZERO respect for people going downhill.

Has NOTHING to do though w respect for landowners & townspeople.
  • 22 0
 @mi-bike: I think the point that he was making is that people have ZERO respect for anything, not just landowners.
  • 2 1
 @northwoodsskier I'm in agreement with you. Some bikers (mainly visitors, IMO) are taking advantage of a good thing and ruining it for everyone. As stated a few months ago these landowners are upset with bikers making their own trails, not respecting the property, not obeying signs, and throwing garbage all over the place.
  • 3 2
 It sucks, but the old adage "Cycling would be great if wasn't for the cyclists" is pretty on point. I grew up in maine and before moving west would go up there to camp and ride, a lot my friends who've been going there for years have said exactly what you are. Same things happens at Ragbrai, Evergreen MTB festival, pretty much anywhere that something fun intersects with privilege.
  • 3 0
 How much did KTA pay for this article?
  • 41 8
 You somehow managed to miss the question everyone wants to know; Why are there reports that KTA kicked landowners off their own trails in the winter because they weren't wearing snowshoes or xc skis?
  • 12 6
 And let a rumor run rampant that pointed the blame at mountain bikers.
  • 12 13
 Is this a real question?
  • 21 8
 @tbubier: to be clear, and it’s started in the interview, the landowners have yet to provide specifics behind their decisions to anyone. That’s not to say that those rumors aren’t in fact valid, but KTA can’t clear things up if things haven’t been clear to them either.
  • 23 32
flag pargolf8 (Feb 6, 2020 at 5:58) (Below Threshold)
 @briceshirbach: news flash! They dont have to! Why do you some how think i need to give you an explanation of why i don’t want you on my land? Are you paying the taxes? Why would you think you have any say? Buy your own land and turn it into joeyville if you want.
  • 19 6
 @briceshirbach: the landowners were perfectly clear in the letter they wrote to KTA; Abby has not released that letter to the public........
  • 2 0
 Is this confirmed or another word of mouth thing? That’s just too dumb to be true...right?
  • 8 3
 @briceshirbach: The towns of Lyndon, Burke, and E. Burke have a total population of around 8K people. Do you honestly believe that not 1 of the 4 landowners was willing to share ANY of their rationale for pulling out with a person(s) in charge of a major portion of the area's economy?
  • 4 2
 @northwoodsskier: So can you elaborate? I've never been to Burke or Kingdom Trails, but it was always on my to do list. What the hell was going on up there to make landowners pull the plug on something they've been vested in for 25 plus years?
  • 12 4
 @sjma: Here is the first reporting of the closures in the local area...
Please note in sentence 4:
"Long said she did not feel comfortable sharing letters from the landowners in question about why they recently chose to withdraw their properties from KTA"

www.caledonianrecord.com/news/trio-of-darling-hill-landowners-won-t-allow-kta-mountain/article_6b71e093-e862-5fe1-b197-629d2ef6f918.html
  • 2 0
 @northwoodsskier: I meant about KTA denying access to landowners for not wearing snowshoes / XC skis in the winter
  • 8 6
 @pargolf8: Why are you yelling at your keyboard? I agree, they definitely don't have to. I think that while it's easy to raise the pitchforks on the internet, the reality is that if Abby and the rest of KTA want to remedy this situation, they certainly can't speculate on behalf of the landowners if the landowners are asking or privacy. Which also speaks to why those letters haven't been made public (@northwoodsskier). We don't know anything about the terms or conditions of those letters, so to expect KTA to make them public is pretty irresponsible. If you have anything beyond speculation or rumors and want to reach out to me privately, feel free to do so (@lifeofloon, @northwoodsskier, @woodchuuk).
  • 4 0
 @Smokee9000: I suspect they have, but I don't know who those people are. If you do, please share! It seems to me that at the moment, those landowners are probably keenly aware of the uproar that this has caused, and are currently seeking a bit of privacy and aren't quite ready to sit and discuss things with KTA.
  • 9 4
 @briceshirbach: i’m not a journalist with access to the players involved. you (a journalist with that access) could have read the threads on MTBR, and formulated questions in an attempt to get the answers. “the rumors are this, help us correct the record and clarify what happened and why...”
  • 4 2
 @briceshirbach: I do not know any of the parties personally. One of the landowners owns a good-sized construction company in the area, and also owns horses(which may or may not be part of the issue)

Again, given what the economic parameters are in conjunction with a pretty small community, it seems A Long's answers are obtuse. She may not have been able to sit down with the landowners, but I suspect there are specific issues at hand that she and KTA are well aware of. KTA is doing themselves a great deal of harm, by not making these issues public.
  • 20 5
 @woodchuuk: I'll give you some backstory. First, I can't tell you the last time I went to MTBR. Not a knock on them either, it's just the reality of the situation. My original intent was to actually host a roundtable discussion on a condition of anonymity for those property owners, as I do quite enjoy the NEK and have a lot of really strong, personal relationships there, so I wanted to do something constructive and see these people do well for themselves. That's when I learned that none of the four property owners have yet to actually communicate with KTA beyond the original letters stating their decision to restrict access. If that ever does become a possibility, you can bet I will jump on it. But that's their prerogative. In the meantime, I discovered that ZERO media outlets had actually reached out to KTA looking for any clarification or details on the situation. So I offered to sit and discuss the matter at hand. Not getting paid for this piece. For sure, there are additional questions, and a series of follow ups is expected, particularly after next week's public forum, but this is a chance for KTA to expand on their letter to the community, offer any additional details on event cancellations and also a chance to make clear where they feel they have come up short because up until this point it's been pure speculation. I think you probably have some valid questions, and should utilize the public forum that they're hosting next week to fire away. If you can't be there, then you can submit online too.
  • 16 1
 @Smokee9000: I agree in theory with your last point. However, I think this speaks to the bigger issue of what the internet does: we want answers to everything, and we want them instantly. I would just say that before we burn the village down, let's allow for a few things to happen first. Let's wait to hear from those landowners, and we should probably respect the timeline they want to operate on as well as their privacy. Most people on this forum operate with some level of privacy due to whatever screen name they comment with instead of their actual names and locations, so that's something I assume we all understand. Second, Abby states very clearly that they want to take direction from all 97 landowners first and foremost, and I think the first step in doing so will come on Feb. 11 during that public forum. It sounds like you're somewhat local too, so it could be a good opportunity to have your voice heard and also listen to any additional perspectives that are made available then.
  • 9 0
 @briceshirbach: thanks, i’m sorry i was rude. this thing gets people excited, myself included.
  • 7 1
 @woodchuuk: I am right there with ya
  • 8 0
 I don't think its anyone's business to know exactly what the landowners' issues were that lead to this decision. As long as the Association is aware of what's going on, which they do along with their own shortcomings in addressing them earlier, they can work on addressing those concerns to turn things around. Abby is also new to the area so it stands to reason the owners haven't been communicating with her directly but rather through residents who have been part of the community for a long time. That mentality is pretty common there. I'm sure things will work out, the amount of growth they've experienced over the past 20 years has been insane and with growth comes many issues to work through. Canceling NEMBA fest must have hurt a lot but that was a good choice. I can't imagine how much stress and impact that has on the local residents when busy weekends are already unmanageable.
  • 5 4
 @pargolf8: You ok brah? Feel better after your little freak out??
  • 5 4
 @tbubier: The land owners kicked the bikers out because there was an incident where a mountain biker was rude (we'll just leave it at that) to an equestrian, that happened to be THE land owner. Seems to be the straw that broke the camels back. A lot of growth over the past few years + a rider acting like an a*shole = land owners having enough. We're riding bikes in the woods people, no reason to be rude or a dick, you should actually be happy to be riding and enjoying the outdoors.
  • 7 0
 @pargolf8: This is 100% true. Private landowners do not have to give any reason for wanting people off their land. It is a privilege they let users on it.
  • 5 2
 @northwoodsskier: This is an honest to goodness question: are you among the landowners who are restricting access? I ask because I was told multiple times by KTA that there really were zero specifics given, and that it ultimately came down to the landowners asking for understanding and looking reestablish their privacy, which is completely their right. If you're privy to any additional details from those letters beyond that and can prove them factually, you're welcome to message me privately.
  • 5 0
 @Smokee9000: I don't know any of the players personally, but I work with some that do. I'm not interested in naming names or any other BS, but what was told to me was a last straw sort of thing where three DB's told a female land owner and the horse she rode in on where to go in no uncertain terms. It appears it wasn't the only infraction and as Abby said, "it was brewing for years".
  • 1 1
 @VT2wheeledlife: I have heard the same about the horses and can see where the landowners would be pissed. BUT(big but) Have you ever seen a single sign OTHER than No Horse Riding on Single Track at KTA? I have not.

It would seem sensible to alert the bike riding public that "Some of our landowners are equestrians and WILL be riding on their land"
  • 5 0
 @VT2wheeledlife: To be clear, I think Horse owning landowners should be able to ride whenever they want to on their property
  • 1 0
 @Smokee9000: Totally agree! I think Abby touched on that as far as a code of conduct for riders..."Dear Jerry's, other folks own this land and you are their guest while here so don't be a Jerry while here Jerry."
  • 3 1
 @briceshirbach: "I was told multiple times by KTA that there really were zero specifics given"

A sad situation, leading to even more speculation and accusations in all the directions.
  • 3 0
 @Smokee9000: No, but there are signs all over KTA telling you that you are riding on private land. And if you buy a ticket (which many do not), its all over the place there as well.
  • 1 0
 @SlodownU: 100% agreed.
  • 2 0
 @SlodownU: My point is, how would a biker know the difference between a landowner on horseback and a non-landowner on horseback. I'm fully aware that this example borders on the extreme
  • 1 3
 @briceshirbach: i used two exclamation points..... so yelly
  • 4 1
 @briceshirbach: I am not one of the landowners....I am a 3rd generation local; raising the 4th, I love the network and can fully understand why the landowners did what they did; be it privacy or respect.
  • 5 0
 @Smokee9000: Even if the horseback owner wasn't a landowner, it didn't warrant the treatment that they received. Bikers aren't the only people on the planet that enjoy the woods. I love to ride, but that doesn't entitle me to any special status or treatment.
  • 2 1
 @SlodownU: Go ride Corner Canyon on a busy weekend and then say horseback riders aren't the worst thing to experience on the trails.

Seriously though, its all rumors at this point and I've heard a lot. Who knows what's true and what isn't but I wouldn't be surprised if disrespectful users were part of the problem.
  • 2 0
 @SlodownU: Do you know specifically what treatment the equestrians received? AFAIK, the rudeness to horse riders is only a supposition.
  • 7 0
 @Smokee9000: Yes, I know some locals up there and also folks who are part of the local VMBA chapter, and I have to give the equestrians credit for their level of restraint. VT as a whole, not just KT, is really blowing up as an MTB riding destination, something like this was bound to eventually happen given the rate at which traffic has been increasing over the last few years.

As far as trails out west vs. equestrians, its an apples to oranges discussion compared to what happened in VT. The equestrians in question allowed trails to be built ON THEIR LAND out of generosity. Any argument against them ends right there, period.
  • 5 2
 @scott-townes: Disrespectful riders WERE ENTIRELY THE PROBLEM!
  • 3 0
 @SlodownU: Actually, that isn't factually correct. They were certainly an issue, but KTA's lack of ownership rule enforcement, community and landowner relations were as significant contributors. Hell they finally even admitted that.
  • 5 0
 All who demand specifics about the landowners are missing the point. Naming them and making the specifics part of public dialogue on the internet (and thus available via Google forever) is only going to make this much worse, will probably upset other landowners as well, and KTA obviously judged that the only chance of ever getting access to their land again -- and to protect access to the land that remains available by grace of the owners -- is to show total respect for their privacy and try to set a few years of precedent of better behavior.

This is on all of us to try to encourage good behavior among riders. There will always be a few asshats in any group (fewer among MTB'ers than most sports, I think) but probably most of the jerks don't even realize that they are causing problems for everyone. Crystal clear signage at trail entry points helps with this
  • 1 0
 @jfloren: "Crystal clear signage" is a great idea but unfortunately you're relying on ppl to read, understand and follow said signage and that's asking a lot of ppl. IMO at least. I've worked places with TONS of signage and pretty much all of it was ignored. People suck.
  • 4 0
 @lifeofloon: this came out weeks after we spoke? Good lord...you seem to have a strange vendetta going here. Good luck!
  • 1 4
 @briceshirbach: yet the local news outlets have been working on this and aware of it for almost that much time. Seeing as it's the exact reason Victory got shut down over a year ago its comical to think that it's not something that could/would affect KTA as well. Also this was first reported a few days ago and Pinkbike has still been quiet about the issue, one that affects one of the biggest mountain biking destinations for Eastern Canada and the northeast United States. Sorry you take it personally if others are pointing out that your interview was pretty soft on KTA and appeared more as Pinkbike trying to help do damage control for them.
  • 26 3
 Thank you to Brice for doing this story and for Abby for sharing as much as you can at the moment amidst the storm. We have got to be patient and let these landowners share their stories directly if and when they want to.
  • 30 7
 Would you want a bunch of bro’s on your land for no compensation? I know what my answer is...
  • 13 2
 Exactly. It was nice while it lasted. The trails should be on public land, find a way to make it beneficial for the landowners, or just move on and build some new trails.

The fact that the sport is growing is great, especially in this area of the country, but maybe not when it comes to riding on private land.

I do understand why the riders would be pretty disappointed though. Do what us dirt jumpers have been doing for the last 20 years when our trails get dozed: Be bummed out for awhile and then find a new spot.
  • 15 1
 If I had the land to share, I'd share it. Seems that 90+ landowners in the Kingdom agree.
  • 1 0
 @bikekrieg: I personally wouldn't want the liability, but I'm from NY where everybody needs a lawyer. I would however have some dope trails for the homies and I.
  • 16 0
 @robito: landowners aren't held liable. Abby mentions the Vermont statute for landowner liability protection in the interview. However, given the amount of stress being put on properties here, it would seem that Vermont might want to follow Washington State's lead by providing tax breaks for landowners who allow for recreational land easements.
  • 2 0
 @briceshirbach: Thanks for correcting me. Landowner Liability protection is a great idea...
  • 4 0
 @robito: for sure, and I wouldn't assume it exists either given how litigious things can get these days.
  • 1 1
 @bikekrieg: well theres a big difference in “if i had” and “i have” easy to speculate when you’re looking at someone else’s investment
  • 25 8
 In a tiny town like Burke, for A. Long to claim that she doesn't know why the landowners pulled out is weapons grade bullshit.
  • 15 0
 She may "know" but if they havent directly told her anything or told her that it was okay to discuss why they have made their decision, then that is the safest response. You cant expect her to shoot herself and the rest of KTA in the foot by making the landowners even more angry by furthering speculation or not respecting their privacy. The priority right now is to mend wounds, go at landowners pace, and find how to make the trail system whole again while being fair to landowners. If that means that some information may be witheld from joe pinkbike user until it is appropriate to share it then i think thats a fair price. As Abby said, its still a strong trail system with LOTS of room for improvement in many aspects. Even a permanent loss of these sections of trail is something that can be worked around, but patience is key.
  • 6 0
 @fieldt2211: She may "know" but if they havent directly told her anything or told her that it was okay to discuss why they have made their decision, then that is the safest response. You cant expect her to shoot herself and the rest of KTA in the foot by making the landowners even more angry by furthering speculation or not respecting their privacy. The priority right now is to mend wounds, go at landowners pace, and find how to make the trail system whole again while being fair to landowners. If that means that some information may be witheld from joe pinkbike user until it is appropriate to share it then i think thats a fair price. As Abby said, its still a strong trail system with LOTS of room for improvement in many aspects. Even a permanent loss of these sections of trail is something that can be worked around, but patience is key.
  • 5 4
 @Tfield221: So it's ok if KTA lets users/riders take the blame, as is the current situation, while the problem might well be a direct issue between the landowners and how KTA management is treating them?
  • 8 0
 @Smokee9000: All of that blame has been thrown around on instagram and pinkbike comments, not official statements, so yes I think it is appropriate in this situation. KTA is in no way making this someone else's fault, they are claiming fault on their part in multiple aspects. In this time when we don't know the exact reasons, if there is rumors that is due to poor behavior on our part, then that may cause perpetrators to realize some consequences for their actions (even if riders weren't the reason, it is not factual to say that all riders behaved properly 100% of the time). Also all of this debate will hopefully cause everyone to pitch in across the sport to self-govern ourselves and to hold each other to a higher standard of behavior. A statement may be released showing that riders were not the reason but everyone who was riding knows if they behaved properly or improperly so as long as you behaved yourself, having other riders be blamed shouldnt make you lose sleep.
  • 3 4
 @Tfield221: Sorry, but I have to disagree.

If the situation was caused by riders, then why hasn't KTA come out and said so? What would be the point in letting the rumor mill continue? Issue a statement saying that poor rider behavior is directly affecting a precious resource. Cleary state repercussions for this type of behavior going forward.

To the best of my knowledge, KTA has done nothing like this.
  • 2 0
 @Smokee9000: That is one of the things Abby mentioned in the article as far as having the stewards efforts increased (I dont know their financial details but hiring 10-15 seasonal bike patrol members seems like it would be feasible and more effective). More enforcement is definitely needed especially on a trail system that is so obviously and precariously balanced on the goodwill of the landowners. That being said I believe the issue we are talking about goes back to the idea that KTA likely does not want to release anything about the causes of the closures until they get a better chance to talk to the landowners and make sure that nothing they save will have backlash.
  • 7 0
 I live in VT and build trails here. I can see on the a face of it why this could be thought of as weapons grade bullshit. However, in my dealings with native Vermonters their biggest weapon is silence and stonewalling. Compared to other parts of the country I've lived, confrontation and straight talk does not fly well here. I really do believe that Abby Long, as non-native Vermonter really does not know why this happened. In fact, I don't think anyone will ever tell her directly
  • 4 3
 @clam-sandwhich: i dont know why people act like its such a damn mystery. People act like a*sholes on my private land. I close the access. Wtf else do you really need to know? Nothing, cause it’s not your business
  • 8 0
 @Tfield221: @Smokee9000: You both make good points. Regardless of what the “final straw” was, it is crystal clear to anyone not living under a rock for the past five years that inconsiderate and entitled behavior on the part of some riders is a real and significant problem at KT and KTA wasn’t making strong efforts to encourage reform. One possible positive outcome of this whole dustup would be some action there and some improvement in the respect of riders. It may be more effective if they came right out and said it, but it should still have an effect if the cause is implied and efforts to address it are included/focused on in the plan to go forward. However, in the end maybe they don’t want to point to one singular issue for fear of diminishing other very real issues experienced by other landowners.

Not identifying a singular issue allows the conversation to focus on the many problems (in-town overcrowding/parking, inconsiderate behavior, landowner inconvenience for no benefit, potentially dubious financial reporting, lack of community involvement by KTA, even the reported conflict over fat bike grooming, which may or may not be the real final straw). In the end all of these, and likely more, need to be addressed and improved. Being vague at this time and accepting input via forums where everyone’s concerns can be heard might be the most productive way forward. It would certainly be tragic to focus on one issue to the extent that it pissed off other landowners who then also pulled out feeling their concerns weren’t being heard.
The best thing they can do now is listen to public input and start making actionable plans to address the issues. It won’t be easy to resolve all the problems, but at least they are listening and it seems like they will try.
  • 4 1
 KT knows why the landowners pulled out. If my sources in East Burke are correct, in a town with less then 200 full time residents, everyone knows why the landowners pulled out.

Sounds like there were a few reasons that lead up to their decision to pullout.

One reason was the push on KT’s part to have all events up on Darling Hill, it just got too much for the residents. Then last year, KT hosted a bonfire during Winter Bike which upset one of the landowners because it was hosted on their property without KT first asking permission. All the traffics, noise and people were starting to overwhelm residents on Darling Hill. This past Fall a bike rider slapped a horse on the rear causing the horse to buck off a young girl, and then KT for whatever reason no longer maintained adequate horse trails causing the equestrians to have to ride in the fields on their own property, one of the landowners is a passionate equestrian.

The landowners put KT on notice there were issues but KT didn’t do anything about it, so the landowners felt that their only option was to pull the plug on the mountain bikers.

The fourth landowner discontinued their property for KT riders because their property is being listed on the real estate market and they felt that having all the mountain bikers ride through their property could hurt their chances of selling.

According to my sources many Darling Hill residents support KT and understand the good it does for the local economy but feel that there is no balance. Darling Hill residents want KT to start creating good trails in other parts of the Burke Area so the Ridge isn’t so crowded in the summer.
  • 1 0
 @Climbtech: well put.
  • 1 1
 @pargolf8: Well Mr. pargolf8, the neighborly and mature thing to do is let people know why things aren't working out so well. Of course the landowners are not required to say anything. But, if they don't say anything, then nobody learns anything constructive. We all live in communities and have to work together whether we like it or not.
  • 21 4
 Interesting. Steered clear of some issues. When was the last time the organization was audited?
  • 10 2
 It would seem as though that is currently on the table per her response to one of the questions.
  • 9 0
 @briceshirbach: Right. It also sounds like in 25 years, not a single audit? Amazing.
  • 8 0
 @dump: yeah that's fair for sure...though I would say that what the Kingdom Trails have become was probably well beyond the scope of what the founders had envisioned.
  • 7 3
 Good Question..

I imagine some of what was going on with the landowners is that they see KT’s 990s, see their $1,400,000+ in their bank account and then asks themselves why are we barring all the burden by having tons of random people in our back yard every weekend, the community isn’t getting anything in return, our taxes are high with no fiscal help plus dealing with the noise and inconvenience of events hosted next door. The landowners probably got feed up with it all, wanted KT to be less Darling Hill focused or at least give back.

If I were a member of the community who spent decades supporting KT with it not being reciprocal especially when seeing tons of money in their bank account and knowing they were a 501c3 setup for Charitable Givings, I probably would get feed up too or at the very least be asking the tough questions. After all, what has KT done within the past 10+ years for Charitable Givings?

Another question is why on their 990’s are they saying that the bulk of their income comes from educational services about trees, birds and butterflies, what’s up with that? I have never known anyone to visit KT for butterflies.

I would be curious to know how much biking ticket sales, KT swag and the advertising they charge is reported as unrelated business income as opposed to being thrown into the education services on their tax return.. what are the educational services?

For a 501c3 they could be doing a better job on being transparent.
  • 6 2
 @Bikefellow: Hey Dave, some good questions in there and welcome to Pinkbike! I would argue that there is in fact plenty of financial reciprocity in terms of the success of local businesses and their dependence on the trails. I don't know what the costs are annually of a staff that grows to 30+ employees in the summer, and everythin g required for trail maintenance, etc, but I think that there is something to be said about your point of incentivizing things in a financial sense for landowners, which is mentioned a few times in the story. You're from Vermont? I would suggest attending the public forum next Tuesday in East Burke if you can, that way you can ask them directly about the educational services (likely money spent on the AmeriCorps youth education outreach coordinator who's been in the schools every day, and she gets kiddos out on the trails every single day mentioned in the article), and any other suspicions you might have about how they do business instead of speculating on the internet.
  • 4 3
 @Bikefellow: Just re-read my reply and I definitely don't mean for that to come off as snarky. I just mean that instead of instead of engaging in pure speculation, that public forum is a real opportunity for you to provide face-to-face feedback as well as receive additional information and clarity from KTA and possibly some landowners. Cheers!
  • 7 3
 @briceshirbach: Within the community, KTA isn't known as being a charitable org. In fact I know there are many that question their pile of cash and the fact it hasn't been used to support the greater community with programs the entire area could benefit from since they amassed their cash pile by charging people $ for the use of other people's land. There are a relatively small number of business owners that reap the benefits of the weekend take over of the local area. There are many more who are inconvenienced, silenced and receive no benefit.

I'm sure they are all thrilled with the millions of $ people have spent to be educated on "Butterflies, Birds, Trees and Summer Landscapes".......

While we cannot hold Abby accountable for the mess she inherited, she certainly owns a piece of what the org has done, or more to the point not done, since she took over the reigns. As I stated elsewhere, the people that lead us into this state of affairs over the past 5-15 years, cannot and should not be the people that lead us out. On principle alone they should not be allowed to "steward" this charitable organization.
  • 4 8
flag pargolf8 (Feb 6, 2020 at 17:58) (Below Threshold)
 @briceshirbach: no? Seems you have plenty of snarky responses here. Me too but im no “journalist” for this website
  • 5 0
 @pargolf8: I'm not entirely sure what it is you have found so offensive from me, especially considering I agree with your stance on the landowners' right to privacy. I feel like I made myself available and open to this discussion throughout the day to clarify and respond thoughtfully. I'm a fellow grammar police officer, so I even laughed at the junior college journalism bit. If you have specific issues, feel free to message me and I'm happy to discuss further. Cheers!
  • 7 0
 @briceshirbach: the Americorps Youth Outreach Program is a good start, but Abby’s been there for what two years at best? Yet, KT has been around for 25 + years, what did the previous Executive Director do for Charitable Givings? Plus it appears that the reporting of all educational services for butterflies, etc., on KT’s 990’s started with him.. which further makes one wonder why did he “resign” in such an abrupt and mysterious manner back in ‘17?

I do think Abby is trying to take this organization in a more forward thinking, less grassroots direction, and Kudos for her for doing this.. However, as she mentioned these problems have been brewing for years, so maybe in order to truly move forward the Board of Directors needs to right and address KT’s past wrongs and hold people accountable, even if that means going public with some not so pleasant truths, get the skeleton’s out of the closet sort of mind set. After all, Board of Directors Fiduciary Duties are a real thing for Nonprofits and shouldn’t be ignored.

The reality is KT is a great organization but it has played fast and lose for sometime now. In their 25+ year existence, it’s only been under Abby’s leadership where have they started to change such as the Ameircorp Program. Yet, with the loss of these parcels of lands, KT is now under the magnifying glass like it’s never been before. If the organization has had any past indiscretions and chose to bury its head in the sand in hopes that people don’t figure it out, the Powers at Being are taking a huge risk, as if any past indiscretions do exist, they will come out, they always come out..

But, if KT were the ones to put it all out there, control the messaging and self report, as opposed to a journalist or an investigation launched, they would be a lot more respected in the eyes of all the communities who have continuously support them. Once everything is out there, the organization then could start over, rebuild with a fresh slate, practice better transparency, ethics and thus eliminating all further speculations and conjectures.

My concerns for KT’s future have validity. Short of KT drafting a lot of Non-Disclosure Agreements, I fear that 2020 will mark a turning point for KT as well as for the many innocent and good folks that trusted KT and it’s Board of Directors to do right. However, it’s up to them as to how they want to play this, my only hope is that they know what they are doing and understand the inevitable ramifications of not playing by the rules and not dealing head-on with the bad even if there are any unpleasant truths.
  • 1 0
 @Bikefellow: I think you made several sound points here. I honestly don't know much about skeletons in their closets and wouldn't want to speculate on them in this manner, but I agree and think even Abby might that an audit is long overdue. You're right though, this has historically been a great organization that has provided quite a lot of joy for hundreds of thousands of people over the years, myself very much included and this definitely marks a turning point. I have quite a lot of close friends who call East Burke home, and my ultimate hope is that this proves to be a growing pain, and an overdue launch pad for changes that are clearly needed. I know I sound like a broken record, but I do think that looking to the landowners for direction moving forward and starting that process via the public forum on Feb. 11 is a really smart way to handle this. I would love to see notes on it and hear how things go.
  • 3 1
 @briceshirbach: I agree that the landowners are definitely a big piece of this puzzle but I also don’t think all the direction for KT’s future and decisions making should be left up to them.

It is my understanding that the underlying purpose for KT is not just creating phenomenon trails but instead creating phenomenal trails which are the catalyst for infusing money into the local economy.

It would be nice to see a dichotomy of a people sitting on the board including business owners. Admittedly, some board members have businesses that benefit from KT such as nightly rental properties but it appears their is no consistent representation of the East Burke business community. Also, since KT holds itself out as being a multi-use trail system, other types of stakeholders should have equal representation.

Over the years, some of my local friends have shared their frustrations that various members of KT’s Board of Directors appear to be self-serving for example pushing for a new trail to come in that would significantly benefit their property, a family member or friend’s property due to the increased revenue that the trail would bring in from the bikers. If that is in fact true or even if there is glimmer of truth to this, then KT needs some pretty solid Conflict of Interest Policies and Board Member disclosures during the vetting process of selecting new Board Members.

It’s not uncommon for Nonprofits to have hard times finding people willing to sit on a Board but in KT’s situation, they don’t appear to lack people willing to be a Board Member, yet most locals have no idea how Board Members are selected, what KT’s Conflict of Interest Policies are and what KT’s Self-Dealing Policies/ Disclosure Policies are, which brings me back to my original statement that Kingdom Trail’s needs more transparency, as it would be nice for all the stakeholders to understand the process.

One of my local friends told me that KT’s former Executive Director was in control of many other local Burke Area Nonprofits. He made decisions for the business community, and some in the business community weren’t too keen on his unilateral decisions because there wasn’t equal opportunities for the local businesses with only a select few getting things like marketing exposure and the perks that come along with hosting KT events, I got the impression that things were far from utilitarian.

My hunch is that Kingdom Trails recognizes this but short of creating a diverse Board who knows what the future will bring. If I were them, I would even go as far as creating a panel of Non-Locals, people that might not live in the Kingdom but certainly come up and ride the trails, as the mountain biking community in Southern New England would look at things through different lenses, as having a variety of perspectives is never a bad thing.
  • 33 16
 this is a disgraceful softball interview considering all that’s swirling around out there.
  • 1 21
flag mi-bike (Feb 6, 2020 at 6:02) (Below Threshold)
 Literally transcribed phone calls are lazy, you guys
  • 9 0
 @mi-bike: this is "literally" not a transcribed phone interview
  • 2 12
flag mi-bike (Feb 6, 2020 at 6:56) (Below Threshold)
 @briceshirbach: *edited* transcription then perhaps? If so, shouldn’t they have edited out the “you guys” in the questions?
  • 3 5
 @mi-bike: that struck me too. I know people use “you guys” informally, but in a professional publication it looks really amateurish. (And in the context of this article, Abby is representing KTA, so it’s perfectly fine to use simply “you”.)
  • 6 5
 @MtbSince84: junior college journalism
  • 10 1
 Hear this out: NEMBAfest cancelled at KT because of community issues and overcrowding. Boyne Resorts pulled the plug on Sunday River’s downhill park because of challenging terrain for trailbuilding and a lack of beginner-friendly terrain - now, Boyne is using Highland to build a small park at Loon Mountain to gauge interest. Carrabassett Valley NEMBA has a pretty stout trail network that they’ve cultivated and even have some serious XC races there every year...and they have Sugarloaf, which is a Boyne resort and has no bike presence. I think NEMBA, Boyne, and Highland have a real opportunity to make Sugarloaf a HUGE New England mountain biking destination and it’s right on their lap.

Boyne runs Sugarloaf year round already - more money for them from MTBers going to their properties. Carrabassett Valley/Kingfield get more economic activity during the other 3 seasons which I’m sure they’d like, plus they’re already set up to handle tons of tourists during the winter so the infrastructure is in place. Highland can make a killing providing their downhill park building services and they’re doing a test run of that at Loon right now. Carrabassett Valley NEMBA gets huge exposure and can build the trail network and XC races to be a destination and now NEMBAfest has a new home.

Wins all around except for KTA.
  • 1 2
 This guy sounds like he’s in the know. Thanks for that info!
  • 1 0
 That sounds great and all, but KT is a closer destination for the masses. I’m
Not saying that sugarloaf sucks. I’m saying that sugarloaf is another 2-3 hour drive for a lot of people on top of an already 2-3 hour drive to KT.
  • 7 1
 Is there a loophole to make a large "donation" to the land owners and get this straight??...they need an apology as well from the a*sholes that basically ruined the whole thing. Landowners do not like when they are told to "f*ck off" on there own property by a mountain biker...
  • 6 0
 Washington State's Current Use Tax Exemptions covering Recreational Use are awesome, combine that with protections for land overs like Vermont has already got and I think you'd have a lot more land owners willing to share their piece of heaven. Every state needs this.
  • 5 0
 Yeah absolutely. I'm surprised that Vermont isn't already on board to be honest. Hopefully KTA and other trail associations are able to lobby for some changes to the current statute. If I hear of a way for the public to push for it as well, I can add it to this article.
  • 5 0
 The crux of the problem is THIS:

"A reason why all trails in the state of Vermont are able to exist is through the Vermont statute for landowner liability protection, and I think this stems from traditional sports like hunting, but recreational trails also fall under this protection, so landowners are not liable for injuries that might occur on their property as a result of recreation. That is especially helpful for the Kingdom Trails.

We do have additional insurance that we cover our landowners with, but the state statute is really why trails are allowed to be on private property, but what would jeopardize this policy is that landowners are not allowed to receive compensation for the recreation or else they lose this protection. This is something that a lot of trail groups in the state, Kingdom Trails, VMBA chapters, Green Mountain Clubs, and VAST have to work around. Between us all are thousands of private landowners."

Until that gets fixed, the rest is B.S.!

What you need unfortunately is lobbyists to move the needle legally speaking. As soon as landowners benefit financially, they'll be in like Flynn.
  • 4 0
 My comment got ratioed into oblivion for saying the same but they obviously need some lobbying help. Otherwise, I will not be surprised if more landowners pull out and KT becomes a non-cycling trail system.
  • 2 1
 Are you sure the crux of the problem isn't the lack of public land to begin with? Maybe if all the land wasn't owned privately there wouldn't be issues with, well, private land owners.
  • 2 0
 @Austinm51: I'm quite sure that's not the problem in this situation. It was NOT public land given to them by the government. It was bought legally, owned and farmed/logged for generations.
  • 1 1
 @krka73: So what's your point? It's still private, doesn't matter if they bought it legally generations ago or not. At least the US government had some foresight when expanding the West to set aside large areas of land to be made public.
  • 2 0
 @Austinm51: You're acting as if there is no public land in VT, there is, certainly less than out west, but that is a simple function of it being settled much earlier in our country's history. There is no way to change that now.

Kingdom Trails was specifically and purposefully built on private land (because that was the only way to do it there) to boost the economy of an existing town that's been on the decline for decades. And it worked! Except that due to VT laws, the private land owners cannot directly benefit financially from the boom without losing legal protection from liability. So MY POINT is they should change the law.

What is your point? Repossess private land for the public use, so they can have MTB trails? That's a non-solution, and won't fly even in the land of Bernie Sanders.
  • 8 1
 RELYING ON THE GOODWILL OF VERMONT HORSEY LANDOWNERS FOR YOUR SPOT? COMEONBRO.
  • 4 0
 Use some of the revenue to buy some land for parking lots out of town. Link the trails to them. Put the land in the trust of a collective of the landowners and allow the parking management company to pay the profits to the landowners. Im probably being too simplistic but its an example of how you could get round a 501c3 not being able to pay landowners without losing protection. I guess all Im saying is that unusual situations need novel solutions. There has to be a way to offer more incentive. And yes I know Im from the UK but I have ridden at KT and in NE a hell of a lot....
  • 2 0
 bombdabass: I think you are on to something, as things appears to need to change.

I have been told that part of the landowner’s frustrations come from them barring the cost, not just the cost of high taxes, etc., but also the cost of their peace and quiet of the rural country setting being overwhelmed in the summer with bikers, many want KT to find a balance which after 25+ years they haven’t found just yet.

It is my understanding that some landowners would like some sort of compensation even if that is a help towards their real estate taxes but when approached, in the past, KT has sighted the Vermont Statute Annotated - which protects the landowners from liability - as the reason why there can be no compensation to the landowners.

However, it’s also my understanding that this Statute has never been tested so it is unknown if it would pass the legal scrutiny test and be upheld in court if litigated. Perhaps a clever lawyer who is also a wordsmith could figure out away to keep the Statute but also figure out away to compensate the landowners by not calling it a “fee”?

I have no doubt that if there is a will, there is a way. Sounds like now is the time where KT needs to be creative and think outside the Box.
  • 9 6
 Despite what they say publicly and despite their willingness to take your money, the people in Vermont don’t want you there. They want to keep their trails secret and they don’t want your advice from 300 miles away on how to run their town.

I’m pretty sure that despite the tough talk on the Internet, the majority of the weekend warrior types are still going to go to KT this summer. They will complain at the Tiki Bar that the best trails are gone, but they will go. That said, this is only the beginning and it will not be the last spot to get blown up in VT.
  • 10 1
 Flatland transplant "Vermonters" from CT and NJ who moved there for the "Vermont lifestyle" certainly don't mind all the traffic. It keeps them in business selling the Vermont brand to those of us who are not lucky to quit our jobs in the suburbs of Boston and New York and relocate. It is the folks that have been up in NEK and other rural areas of the state for generations that have had enough with the tourist load. When your quiet dirt road in a town of 700 people turns in to a highway of out of staters kicking up dust speeding to get some "super rare IPA" I can imagine why you might be upset. What this really represents ATMO is the Vermont "brand" being sold out. Stowe is next.

Vermont is a great place from February to March and July to September. The rest of the time, grey, rain, and more grey. Plenty of other north country riding destinations in the Adirondacks, New Hampshire or Maine would love a quarter of the attention KT has seen over the past 10 years. Mountain bike paradise in the north east is not lost, it is waiting to be discovered elsewhere.
  • 5 1
 you're right, we don't want you and we dont want your opinions (not you specifically wibblywobbly, but the other ass-hats in here). i got downvoted for suggesting that you cant just roll into VT (especially north bumf*ck VT) and buy-out landowners who have been there for generations. but apparently i don't know what im talking about Smile
  • 2 0
 Luckily most of our other trails are too hard for your average family to enjoy together. KTA is special because the trails are easy, flowy, and fun. The rest of VT is much more gnarly. Sure, there are a few places that have started to build easier flow trails, but 90% of our singletrack is still rough, rowdy and steep.

I think you're right about the KTA though. I doubt this will reduce traffic much.
  • 3 0
 Yep, can confirm. "Native" Vermonters don't even want people who haven't lived here for several generations.
  • 5 0
 Sounds like a catch 22 to me for the area....good while it lasted....too much traffic not enough infrastructure...cant blame the Landowners.
  • 4 1
 Hey @briceshirbach thanks for a well thought out piece and even more well reasoned responses in the comment thread. Over the years I've spoken with enough folks to have a sense of the less-talked about underbelly of KT's success for the folks that live there. Things like "what do you do with the poop of 100K people in a town that 8K live in?" and locals telling of wells going dry on the weekends after all the riders shower and wash their kit, which drops the water table faster than it can immediately recharge. Let alone the traffic, etc.

Anyhow, a complex situation for sure that can hopefully be remedied, or perhaps this will drop the level of visitors back to a more easily sustainable level. Time and efforts will tell!
  • 1 0
 kevmocal: East Burke doesn’t have a public sewer system, all the residents, businesses, rental properties, hotels, etc., are private systems. There is a Water District that provides water to East Burke Village, it is not owned/run by the municipality. But, for years there has been a moratorium on accepting more people online for water, as they couldn’t monitor it and in a dry summer water became limited. Most newer homes and businesses have had to drill their own wells.

In 2018 the Water District started to upgrade their system, so it could accept more folks online, but as I understand it, they ran into a lot of costly overruns and the project came to a hard stop going into the winter of 2018/2019. I think they might have gotten the funding to finish the project which for their sake I hope will be finished this coming Summer.

I agree this is a complex situation, but either way, it is time for the powers at being to figure out the infrastructure side of things: public parking, public bathrooms, water, road safety, more sidewalks & cross walks, rubbish receptors for the tourists, and so forth.

There is open lands up Route 114 heading up to East Haven/Island Pond which might be worth exploring, also right up the street in East Burke Village, over the bridge, past the Belden Hill area headed towards Burke Mountain Access Road might offer some other options too. KT owns property in back of the Church, although it’s probably too close to the river to build anything on, it might be a good spot for KT parking?

There are options... the only question is will these options be explored.
  • 2 0
 The private land-owner model would seem a problem when things grow to the level that Kingdom has gotten to. I think you can throw around blame about mtb'er behaviour, which would be legitimate, but ultimately, the problem is the model. Not that solutions can't be found, but there is work to do. I hope it all gets worked out. I've had a few great trips to Kingdom and hope to be back.
  • 2 0
 The addition of putting NEMBA fest there was the death nell - just too overwhelming all at once. It's one thing to have a steady flow of riders on weekends, but then a crush of riders for a long event was too much - mob mentality takes over.
  • 2 0
 @briceshirbach one thing it would be interesting to get Abby’s take on is the situation with Victory Hill. Extending the KT network onto public land would seem to address many of the problems KTA is facing in reliance on private landowners (that’s not to say they shouldn’t still address the clear problems with overcrowding, infrastructure and trail etiquette, of course). Victory State Forest is a 16,000 acre plot of public land that is immediately adjacent to Burke Mountain and very close to existing KTA trails near the mountain and in East Haven. It is perfect terrain for bike trails. The trails on Victory Hill itself were phenomenal— that is of course until they too were shut down. Unfortunately I can’t make the public forum. But I will submit the question and see if anything comes of it.
  • 2 0
 That's a great point. I'd actually love to hear her thoughts on that as well. While they do, as you mention, need to prioritize managing the problems at hand at the actual Kingdom Trails, it would be interesting to see if there might possibly be an opportunity to multitask and work on reestablishing mountain bike trails on the Victory Hill property. Knight, Ryan, and that crew are among the very best trail builders in the country, and I know how much he loved that spot. As did the rest of us!
  • 3 0
 @Radioface: It was my understanding of the Victory Hill debacle rested on their inability to obtain an Act 250 permit. Act 250 in Vermont is what I would refer to as “Super Zoning”. For example Act 250 is why Vermont doesn’t have any Billboards.

Various things trigger Act 250: number of subdivisions, elevation height, proximity to bodies of what, development in wetlands, etc.

People try their best to stay away from Act 250 because once their property/ a project is found to be governed by Act 250, then that property moving forward with whatever future expansions/development is subject to Act 250 approval, also Act 250 is known to place restrictions on properties. The permitting fees for Act 250 can be costly too. I want to say it’s something like $1000 dollar fee for every $100,000 spent in construction/development.

The process of Act 250 can also take along time, as it is not like a local zoning board application process where you draft your application, pay your fee and a zoning administrator comes out for a sight visit. Act 250 on the other hand requires environmental impact studies and other things depending on what the end goal of a project is.

It is my understanding in Victory Hill’s case they were shut down because they should have sought an Act 250 permit before they began.

The triggers for a trail network and Act 250 are:
Construction of improvements for commercial purposes, if it occurs on a tract(s) of land owners/ controlled by a person involving more than 10 acres of land within a radius of 5 miles in a town with zoning regulations or on more than 1 acre of land in a town without zoning regulations. The key is whether there is 10 or more acres of land that would be physically disturbed and the commercial purposes..

In the case of Victory Hill (and one could argue with Kingdom Trails too), them being a nonprofit is irrelevant. It was the fact that they charge a fee (commercial purposes) for use of the mountain biking trails, and the trails extended beyond 10 acres.

The State wants to make sure that the environment impact has been taken into account and things like erosion are minimal and so forth.
  • 1 0
 @Bikefellow: yeah man - I’ve been following along a bit but that’s helpful background. Quite a cluster but it’s good to know people are working hard on it. When I referred to the “situation” at VH I was thinking more about the relationship with local landowners and the fact that many of them were very anti-biker and ultimately led to the 250 Act trigger. I’d heard about the complaints from the locals regarding people ripping down the dirt roads in cars with bike racks on them.

I’m also interested in the view on building trails in state-owned Victory State Forest. It is a massive area and very conducive terrain for great trails. Seems like a decent way to get out of folks’ hair a bit. Put a satellite parking area over on Victory Road south of Flower Brook. There is a bunch of land for sale there and a bunch that’s owned by timber companies. And it’s right on the edge of the state forest. Can easily connect with the Moose Haven stuff and the mountain if you connect over from Pinkham Rd. And then of course over to Victory Hill...
  • 2 0
 Reading this I am so glad I live in Norway.
But some of the article rings a familiar bell. Entitled d..kwads ruining the fun for all.
On my "home trails" at Frognerseteren in Oslo we faced a similar situation. But that specific area is public land.
But the locals made a fuzz because some of us DH riders were aholes. This escelated to the point where I caught one of the senior citizens putting up steel wire in throat height.
I threatened to call the cops on him of he didn't show me all the spots where he boobytrapped the trails. I followed him and watched as he removed them all.
And I cautioned him that next time it might be someone else catching him. And not all of my riding buddies were "nice guys" like me.
We still see the occasional sabotage attempts but they ate few and far between now.
But we did one thing.
We talked amongst ourselves and started to enforce some strict rules unofficially.
Jackholes were left to ride solo for one.
Then the XC ski worlds happened and they tore down a lot of our trails and stunts.
  • 3 1
 Props to Abby for being awesome. Everyone wants some one to blame for this. But KT just got too popular for its own good. It’s not poor behavior, it’s just too many people in a small town. Losing access to trails sucks, but it’s probably the most effective way to keep the crowds away.
  • 3 2
 KTA faces a lot of challenges going forward. Things that could help:

1. More dispersed parking areas: there are currently only 2 in the main network that get filled super fast. (The east haven parking area is a ticking timebomb as well, given the high demand, the limited space, and the adorable parking-lot cat that I really hope doesn't get run over.)

2. Raise the price of admission.

3. Limit the number of tickets sold daily (on top of season passes).

4. Volunteer days focused on helping landowners with "trailwork" on their land. (yard-work or other labor projects).
  • 12 0
 There are three major parking areas currently. The Tiki Bar, the log yard, and Burke Mountain. The problem isn't available parking as the Burke lots could hold all of the visiting vehicles. The problem is that bikers are too damned spoiled and won't drive to park there and begin their rides there because they're so focused on a particular loop. Hell, there's even a FREE bike shuttle to bring you to/from the parking area if you're unwilling to pedal. And still, parking overflows at the in-town lots and riders feel like they can shuttle to other trail crossings and just park their car/truck there. Folks park in hay fields because they don't know the difference.

Raising the price of admission won't help anything. There's more than enough money for trail maintenance and overhead already coming in

Limit the number of tickets? How do you propose they enforce that when there's access to nearly every trail on the network spread over 11+ square miles of land? I seriously doubt that riders arriving for a planned day would respectfully turn around just because tickets are sold out for the day. That's just creating a larger problem.

Volunteer days sound great on the internet, but again, I doubt the majority of riders would chip in for 90+ potential projects that would cut in to their riding time
  • 2 0
 @NEKbiker: @NEKbiker:

I consider the Burke parking a separate area. Sure you can park there for KTA, but as you noted, not many folks do. Smaller lots spread out throughout the network could be more effective at spreading the load (though I do realize that presents some challenge for pass-purchasing).

Raising the price will (most likely) discourage attendance somewhat, but keep revenue the same. Further, any additional revenue raised can be put towards more trail stewards, traffic safety, signage, and other necessities to address landowner concerns.

Limiting the number of tickets is difficult, but doable. If trail stewards actually enforced the need to have a pass, it could be done (ski resorts do it, though I get that they have specific areas that people are funneled towards). Even if they just did it for certain weekends/holidays, it could help. Folks could check online for availability before coming.

If there is one thing that Mountain bikers are good at (at least in Vermont) it is showing up to volunteer days. Many of the networks near me often have too many volunteers to effectively put them to work. I'm sure helping landowners out a few days a year is feasible, given the massive number of folks that use the trails.
  • 2 0
 @NEKbiker: will raising the price actually do anything? I’ve been a KT season pass holder for 8 years now. I’ve never seen or had anyone ask to see my pass/ticket once and I used to ride KT at least 15-20 days a year, but I won’t be back until things get figured out.
  • 9 4
 Where’s the Grim Donut follow up?
  • 2 0
 Not surprised if lack of compensation for land owners may be culprit there too. Exponential growth with local businesses benefiting financially considering that without trail access you have no Kingdom Trails.
  • 4 0
 Yeah absolutely. It seems like Washington State might be a model of proficiency for Vermont, and it would be cool to get the state to move in that direction. But the landowners are all aware of the lack of compensation before they agree to any land easements. Still, I'm sure that once you see the kind of stress that this can put on your property, it's probably a pretty tough pill to swallow, especially if you aren't a local business owner benefiting directly from this kind of influx.
  • 4 0
 Their land is worth tons more because of the trails. If the KTA wasn't there, their property value would drop. I don't think the landowners who pulled out were thinking this through.
  • 2 0
 @bikekrieg: yes, the land is worth more which also means they get to pay more in taxes. All landowners, not just those allowing access. Not sure how happy you would be paying more in taxes on your property while only a handful of businesses benefit from the visitorship....there is no trickle down of that revenue currently, unless you count seasonal part time jobs. And that increased worth of the property is only realized if that property is sold...I don't think many want to leave the area, they just want to live their lives on their land, and coexist in a mutually beneficial manner
  • 1 0
 @bikekrieg: do You really think these people aren’t aware of the value of their land? Everyone wants their own slice of heaven and if you’re able to get it you’re aware. If you’re willing to share it your a decent human being. If you take it away people were f*ckheads.
  • 1 0
 This is an interesting article that shows what can happen if users that are given the privilege of using private don't respect. The majority of the most popular hill in our area is privately owned and the landowners allow us to use it. There has been a lot of work done by people in the community to keep these relationships in good standing and working so we can continue to have the privilege of being allowed on their land.
  • 1 2
 I think it shows what happens when all land is allowed to be private. After reading this I'm super grateful to live on the west coast with it's abundant public land.
Relying on the goodwill of landowners for the "privilege" of enjoying the outdoors makes me sick just thinking about it. Parts of the east coast seem straight up dystopian.
  • 2 1
 Faster bikes with better suspensions and apps like Strava. Add the mentality of speed at all cost and there you have it. We are the problem and sometimes in Locust numbers. Often enough, just straight up rude self important attitudes. I would never want a trail on my private land for mountain bikers and I've been riding since the 1980's. Been seeing trail access problems since then too. We are the problem but we can be the solution too. Just remember money isn't the problem that cures some rude POS riding across a landowners private property so stop with the thought it is about the $$s. One bad apple spoils the rest for us. Sucks. Work hard to be better and apologize for the rude ones too dumb to get better. My 2 cents.
  • 4 1
 @rjsailnsd Spot on. This may not be the only problem here, but it is a significant part of the problem. What you highlight, and most urban dwellers don't seem to understand is that money doesn't solve all problems. Many of the landowners are very well off. Sending a few pennies their way every year is hardly going to make up for throngs of people acting like rude idiots on their property and clogging up the roads/town. It certainly wouldn't be worth it for me. The doucherey up there is unreal. Throwing money at it won't solve the attitude problem.
  • 1 0
 This is really sad. As someone that frequents KTA multiple times per year; including a 'guys' trip where we lodge and spend money for eating in the community it's hard to see this gem start to fade away. I'm sure there will be efforts made to expand and no doubt KTA wont die, but losing some of the real fun trails on Darling Hill is devastating to think about. That side of the network is one of the best, if not the best section of KTA. Then for NEMBA to pull out, ouch! I want to support KTA, but I think I need to see the land owners gain from the association before I jump back in to riding these trails. Painful as that is.
  • 1 0
 i’ve witnessed the disregard for signs that say a trail is closed. couple of canadian bros went right around the sign and rode the trail that was marked as closed so landowners being disrespected is not exactly a huge surprise.
  • 1 1
 What I don't see asked is if they are going to start advocating Vermont's government to look at Washington State's laws and possible give land owners a similar tax break for recreation on their land. That would be a away to give back to the owners for allowing use of their land.
  • 6 0
 from about halfway through the discussion: "I have been looking at Washington State recently, because going back to that private landowner compensation that we can't quite navigate around yet, they have something called “current use”, which Vermont does too, encouraging tax breaks for agriculture and forestry on private land, yet Washington State includes recreation. It's a great example to look towards that maybe one day Vermont could aim for."
  • 1 0
 @briceshirbach: I saw that, that's how I knew to ask my question. She doesn't mention lobbying for that as any part of their moving forward.

It sounds more like hey this state does X, maybe one day our state will as well.

I know I'm an outsider, but that lobbing would be high on my list. Its a way to show the landowners, we're working to get you something for your generality.
  • 1 0
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: I gotcha...I do get the sense from the conversation that making that push alongside other trail associations from the state is on the to-do list, but you're right in that I could have clarified that on record.
  • 6 0
 Unfortunately, it isn't quite that simple. Current use is a massive program and already costs a significant amount of $$ up front for the state to pay out to the towns that forgo the tax revenue. (Though this $$ is theoretically recuperated by the forest products and agriculture products that come from the set-aside land). Many folks worry that opening up the current use law to amendments could actually harm it, as some folks want to see it taken apart (pro-development folks).

Landowners can already become a part of current use if they have a forest management plan and/or use their land for agriculture. Part of that plan can include recreation already. Amending current use really wouldn't benefit the landowners who already have trails on their land, because 90% of them (with 25 acres or over) are already enrolled.
  • 4 0
 @briceshirbach: Here's the actual guidance document provided by the Washington State Dept of Revenue:

dor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Docs/Pubs/Prop_Tax/CurrentUseDesignatedForestlandManual.pdf

I'll have to say that these kinds of tax incentives are not the principal driver of the massive expansion in legit building here in WA. The vast majority of trails are on public lands, whether that's state DNR, county, city or USFS. And most of the trails on private lands are on timber holdings, which already qualify for incentives under the Open Space act.

The "secret sauce" here is the decades of relationship-building that groups like EMBA and WMBC have been engaged in with landowners, whether that's DNR or private timber companies.
  • 2 0
 @geephlow: great insight... thanks!!
  • 1 0
 @bikekrieg: This is totally spot on.
  • 3 0
 @TheOriginalTwoTone:
There definitely is money going to lobbying on this issue via VMBA. Since VMBA and all of the MTB chapters (including KT) are 501c3, they are limited in how much they can spend on actual lobbying.
  • 1 2
 The real question everyone seems to not be asking, at least on this forum anyway, is @lifeofloon and @briceshirbach the same person? One person, multiple accts. on PB. This is why I never win any advent calendar giveaways!!! Now I must add "insert sarcasm here" as ppl will just downvote all willy nilly without reading this post in its entirety.
  • 6 8
 I can understand being optimistic in the face of adversity, but Abby just comes off as completely out of her depths at being able to handle a situation like this one. Someone that is use to handling public land for an annual race event (Leadville) suddenly having to deal with people that probably have no interest at all in the biking community? Sounds like they need to get a political savvy community organizer involved.
  • 5 0
 I think that would not sit well in a town like East Burke. Don't forget, if you really have some suggestions that you believe would help the situation, click that link at the end of the article. There's a public forum next Tuesday, and there is an option to submit comments online if you're unable to attend.
  • 1 3
 I can't agree more that the 1% has ruined this by not respecting some of the basic etiquette, but I take issue with KTA saying that users need to understand that riding is a privilege not a right.

It's a paid for system, and as a paying customer we should be able to have some expectations... I pay for trail passes on a ski hill and as a customer I have expectations that come with that. Like parking and washrooms. KTA is doing some good introspection here and have realized that they need to invest in infrastructure if they want to maintain what they have, never mind grow.
  • 2 0
 I understand what you are saying, but what they mean is you don't have the right to be a dick, even if you paid. Access to individual trails/parcels can be revoked at any time, and rude behavior can ruin access for everyone. It's trying to get people to be respectful and recognize the gift that these landowners give, which should come automatically, but doesn't.
  • 3 1
 Tap-n-die!!!
  • 2 5
 There are a lot of skeletons in the KTA closet. A lot. We'' just let the process run its course. I hope the community finally ready to hold KTA acountable. They/We haven't in 25 years. Small towns ya know......
  • 4 4
 How much did KTA pay for this “article”?
  • 2 2
 Fucking rich people.
  • 2 4
 are the trails even good?
  • 5 0
 They're good. Not tech, but flowy and the dirt rides just fine rain or shine. The big draw is really the vibe. Just lots of people having fun on their bikes in a small town. There are trails for different skill-levels, so you can bring the family.
  • 7 1
 @Adamrideshisbike: agreed, and for all intents and purposes, for those of us who visit from out of the region, there's little to no delineation between Kingdom Trails and Burke Bike Park. I should probably amend that and say that for me personally, I go for both the park and the trails. So yeah, great trails, and really great vibes. I think that the sky is falling sense that some people are conveying is a bit hyperbolic. There are lessons here to be learned for sure, but East Burke is full of really good people, and I have faith they'll figure this out.
  • 3 0
 @briceshirbach: Agreed. I was leaving Burke out of it, but that's where I tend to go when I'm there. Best of both worlds.

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