ST. ALBANS — Cyclists, business owners and town officials alike see 2022 as the year Franklin County develops a stronger mountain bike community.
At the annual kickoff of the Franklin County Mountain Bike Club (FCMTBC) on Jan. 26 at 14th Star Brewing Company, outdoor enthusiasts gathered to hear about the improvements coming to the area’s recreational assets in 2022.
“We have a broad and inspiring view of the recreational future for our region,” FCMTBC President Andy Crossman said at the event.
FCMTBC, a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA), is a non-profit, volunteer organization formed in 2012 to represent the interests of mountain bikers in Franklin County. The club and its board of directors support responsible trail use, perform maintenance on existing trails and advocate for the creation and expansion of local trails.
Annual membership fees sustain the club’s work, as well as grants. Crossman said the club has already received a few for 2022 and is hoping to soon announce the receipt of more.
The impending arrival of Bootlegger Bikes to downtown St. Albans will also play a key role in fostering a cycling community in the county. City Manager Dominic Cloud told the Messenger it’s vital to not only be able to buy a bike in Franklin County but to have one serviced here.
These are 3 more ways the mountain bike scene in Franklin County will grow in 2022.
1. The bike skills park at Hard’Ack Recreation Area is set to expand.
Many of Franklin County’s youngest mountain bikers get their start at Hard’Ack Recreation Area’s pump track. To encourage further participation, FCMTBC plans to expand the park.
Skills parks are managed areas where beginners can practice bike handling, balancing, jumping and turning. Hard’Ack’s park already includes a pump track, or a circuit of rollers and bank turns, but FCMTBC will utilize grant money to build wooden features like bridges and beams.
Evan Champagne, membership coordinator for FCMTBC, said the club also hopes to make the skills park more visible and accessible.
The pump track is currently located up the Hard’Ack hill, Champagne said, which might be daunting to young riders. New sections of the park will be built this summer closer to the newly constructed Greg Brown Lodge.
2. Choiniere Family Farm in Highgate Center will open a small bike trail network this spring.
To make their scenic property more accessible to the public, Guy and Beth Choiniere developed several loop walking trails a few years ago. The farm has since hosted high school cross country competitions and Girls on the Run races.
In 2022, with the help of a grant from RiseVT, the Choinieres will expand their network to include intermediate-level and family-friendly mountain bike trails, Guy said.
Locals will have an opportunity to preview the trails starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12. Following the conclusion of the Winter Shoeski, a snowshoe and cross country skiing event benefiting Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, fat bikers will be able to take to the trails.
3. Trail improvements and builds are expected at town forests across the county.
Crossman said FCMTBC has fielded requests for help from officials in Fairfax and Sheldon. Both towns are seeking to either improve or build mountain bike trails in their town forests.
In addition, Crossman said, there’s been talk of connecting the St. Albans Town Forest to the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail this year.