The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, which owns and manages the Perry Hill Block within CC Putnam State Forest in Waterbury, has announced the continuation of a pilot winter recreation monitoring and management program. This pilot program aims to reduce the negative impacts from winter trail use to an important deer wintering area while maintaining an enjoyable and popular winter recreational experience for the public.
This program started in February 2021 to maintain winter recreational opportunities while recognizing the impact winter trail use has on overwintering deer. After evaluating the data, the department decided to continue the pilot program for the 2021–22 season. Once again, Forests, Parks, and Recreation will partner with the town of Waterbury and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance to provide groomed fat-bike, snowshoe, ski, and pedestrian access to select trails.
Much of Perry Hill is a functioning deer wintering area, mapped by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. During winter months, deer have limited nutritional food supplies and survive on fat reserves. Deer wintering areas provide consistent, dense evergreen canopy cover, which reduces snow depth and provides shelter, minimizing the energy demand on deer. Increased winter trail use in recent years spurred this experimental management action to reduce the effects of recreation on winter survival of deer.
“We are excited to provide groomed trails again at Perry Hill,” said Michael Snyder, the commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. “At the same time, we are seeking to balance this important recreational opportunity with the habitat function of the parcel.”
Two zones have been established at Perry Hill: a winter recreation zone and a deer wintering zone. The winter recreation zone focuses on creating the ideal trail tread to accommodate fat biking on groomed trails, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Dispersed pedestrian recreation will not be restricted in the deer wintering zone, but visitors must understand and limit disturbance in this zone. The deer wintering zone will be identified on the ground with signs. Information about the management objectives and user ethics at Perry Hill will be available on interpretive panels at the trailhead kiosk.
“The public access benefits Perry Hill provides, including the parcel’s proximity to a population center and the large area of the property that is a deer wintering area, represent an opportunity to demonstrate a balanced land management approach, meeting multiple public goals,” said Snyder.
“Last winter season (the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance) upheld their commitment as corridor managers, working with volunteers to maintain a high-quality tread on the winter trail system,” said Walter Opuszynski, a Vermont Forest Recreation Specialist. “Trail users responded by following management goals and user ethics, and it was determined from the data we collected that recreational use of the parcel was focused on the managed trail corridors.”
The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance, a nonprofit organization, helps manage the Perry Hill trails. This winter, they will support signage, public information, and trail grooming. In addition, a local outdoor gear shop, Bicycle Express, will offer groomed trails and help collect data.
“It is our hope that through this pilot effort we can find a way for the winter recreation use occurring at Perry Hill to have less of an impact to wildlife,” said WATA Board President John Duston. “Our community relies on the ability to enjoy the forests for our physical and mental health. Our native species rely on having quality areas to congregate during the winter months.”
Trail users are expected to follow these guidelines:
All Recreation User Groups
Respect the established deer wintering zone by staying on groomed trails. Please focus your recreation activity on the following trail corridors: Main Climb, Campfire, S’Mores, Joe’s, Six Flags, and Scotch Tape (see map). Staying on these trails will help improve the function of the deer wintering zone on the eastern side of the parcel.
Dogs: It is important to leash your dogs or leave them at home. Dogs can chase wildlife and cause additional stress during a vulnerable time of year.
Minimum tire width is 3.8 inches with a pressure between 2 and 8 pounds per square inch (psi).
Help keep the groomed surface in good condition by refraining from riding in soft conditions. If your tire sinks more than an inch into the snow, your tire pressure may need to be reduced, or conditions are not adequate for use.
Hikers, Skiers and Snowshoers
Please do not use the trail if you are breaking through the groomed surface more than 1 inch.
The management strategies at Perry Hill will continue to be evaluated for future seasons based on data monitoring and user behavior, making user compliance to guidelines pivotal to a successful long-term outcome. For more information, please visit waterburytrails.com/winter-use.