Perry Hill Winter Recreation Management Pilot Program Continues

February 16, 2022 The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), which owns and manages the Perry Hill Block within CC Putnam State Forest, announces the continuation of a pilot winter recreation monitoring and management program. This pilot program aims to reduce 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 was started in February 2021 to maintain a winter recreational opportunity for the community while being cognizant of the impact winter trail use has on overwintering deer. FPR captured recreational use dispersion data during the first year to determine if management goals were met. After evaluating the data and finding that trail grooming was accomplishing goals for winter recreational use, FPR decided to continue the pilot program for the 2021-22 season. Once again, FPR will be partnering with the town of Waterbury and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA) 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 (VFWD). 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 energy demand on deer. Increased winter trail use observed by FPR 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 FPR Commissioner Michael Snyder. “At the same time, we are seeking to balance this important recreational opportunity with the habitat function of the parcel.”

In this pilot program two zones have been established at Perry Hill: a designated winter recreation zone and a designated deer wintering zone. The winter recreation zone will focus on creating the ideal trail tread to accommodate groomed fat biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Dispersed pedestrian recreation will not be restricted in the deer wintering zone, but it is important that visitors understand the need to 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 which is deer wintering area represent an opportunity to demonstrate a balanced land management approach, meeting multiple public goals,” said Snyder.

“Last winter season WATA upheld their commitment as corridor managers working with volunteers to maintain a high-quality tread on the winter trail system,” said Walter Opuszynski, FPR Forest Recreation Specialist. “Trail users responded by following management goals and user ethics and it was determined from the data we collected that recreation use of the parcel was focused on the managed trail corridors.”

The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance is the nonprofit trail organization which helps FPR manage the trails at Perry Hill. This winter, they will be supporting the signage, public information, and trail grooming. In addition, local outdoor gear shop, Bicycle Express, will be offering support with grooming along with helping 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.”

FPR and WATA have established the following guidelines for user behavior:

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 attached 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 them additional stress during a very vulnerable time of year. 

Cyclists

  • Minimum Tire Width is 3.8” inches with a psi between 2-8 lbs.
  • 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 https://www.waterburytrails.com/winter-use.