Plans to connect thousands of miles of trails, which span half the country, in Vermont took a big step forward this week.
The U.S. Senate approved its most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade Tuesday evening.
The bill includes a provision to connect the North Country Trail to the Appalachian Trail by creating a new 40-mile trail through Addison County.
The North Country Trail crosses seven states from North Dakota to Crown Point, NY, which means it ends at Lake Champlain.
The new Addison County trail would connect the Long Trail to the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile trail that spans from Maine to Georgia.
“We’ve got decades of experience managing trails and we’d love to put that to work to this effort,” said Mike DeBonis, executive director of the Green Mountain Club.
The Green Mountain Club, along with its more than a dozen chapters, maintains the Long Trail.
“I think it will bring more people into Vermont. I don’t know how many people are going to hike the whole thing but a lot of people do section hikes so I think it will support the recreation economy in the state which is really good,” said DeBonis.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders announced the North Country Trail Route was extended as part of the National Resources Management Act, which overwhelmingly passed Tuesday evening 92-8.
Senator Sanders has cosponsored this bill for the last few years, according to his spokesperson.
“Vermont would host the intersection of two of these scenic trails, greatly expanding opportunities for hiking and recreation in our beautiful state and benefiting our local economy through outdoor tourism,” Senator Sanders wrote in a statement.
“We worked to make sure that this bill includes the North Country Trail, which will connect Vermont’s outdoor economy with seven other states for current and future generations to use and enjoy,” wrote Senator Leahy in a statement.
This is a crucial first step but by no means, is it the end of the hike.
“You have to work with willing landowners, you need permission from the landowner in the town and sometimes that takes time. So I imagine once it gets the green light, there will be a lot of root finding and a lot of volunteer work and probably a few years before you actually see the thing built,” explained DeBonis.
The funding for the work would come from various sources, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The bill now goes to the House.
“Vermont has unparalleled natural beauty that provides us with year-round opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors by trail. And as hosts to both the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail, we have a rich tradition of trail hiking. Connecting the North Country Trail to the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail will provide Vermonters and tourists with even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors through hiking, recreation, tourism, and economic development,” wrote Rep. Peter Welch in a statement.