Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Smith

Mike Smith, President of the Bennington Trail Cruisers was recently recognized as a recipient of the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Region’s prestigious Volunteer & Service Annual Award. Smith and several of his colleagues meet recently with Acting Manchester District Ranger, Martina Barnes, and District Recreation Program Manager, Emily Lauderdale, on the Manchester District to accept the award. Smith had been nominated for and was selected in the Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships category for having made outstanding contributions in  time and effort in repairing and building Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails as part of the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Project on the Manchester District of the Green Mountain National Forest.

Mike Smith and three other people pose for a photo an award.

Acting Manchester District Ranger Martina Barnes presents the Volunteer & Service Annual Award to Mike Smith. Photo: USDA Forest Service

The Manchester District and OHV community have historically had a challenging relationship. Mike’s efforts on the ground and commitment to improving communications with the U.S. Forest Service has made a significant step in improving relations between the Manchester District and the OHV community. Mike, along with other Bennington Trail Cruiser volunteers and parent organization Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA) staff submitted an application for the 2018 Vermont Recreational Trails Program grant for support in undertaking the first year of work on the South of Route 9 OHV trails. The grant was awarded to the club and marked the first time an OHV organization was awarded the grant in the Recreation Trails Program’s 19-year history. Work on the South of Route 9 OHV trails commenced in August of 2018. Mike led an extremely small group of volunteers and worked with VASA staff to correct drainage issues, relocate trail, and construct hardened fords for three water crossings on approximately 5.5 miles of trail in the Town of Woodford, Vermont. Mike provided a presence on the National Forest in an area that sees significant unauthorized motorized use and was able to provide information and education to those he crossed paths with on the National Forest.  

Mike Smith and three other people pose for a photo an award.

From left to right: David Gilderdale, Mike Smith, Dani Luce, and Emily Hale were on hand to help accept the award.Photo: USDA Forest Service

In addition to being the first OHV trails to be incorporated into the National Forest Trails System on the Green Mountain National Forest, the project area contained challenges that required Mike to work with numerous Forest Service program areas and other recreational user groups and partner organizations. Mike worked with District biology technicians, botanists, engineers, recreation staff, and State of Vermont river management engineers. A significant part of work that was completed in 2018 was the relocation of a trail segment away from a sensitive fen area and redesign of the trail where it crossed the fen to provide better hydrological function. These trails have several user groups including snowmobilers, hikers, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders in addition to crossings of the Appalachian / Long Trail. Mike’s openness to working with other user groups and accommodating different recreational uses in the design and construction of the trails was noticed and appreciated.

The Manchester District would not have been able to begin the work on the South of Route 9 OHV trails without the time, resources, and commitment that Mike and his team helped bring to the project. The District is encouraged by the work that was completed and by the critical first steps that were taken to provide a managed opportunity for OHV riding on the Forest with attention to natural resource protection.