Ascutney Outdoors expansion proposed

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 3/6/2022 8:37:44 PM
Modified: 3/6/2022 8:37:09 PM

BROWNSVILLE — As Ascutney Outdoors wraps up its fourth winter season at the small-community owned skiing and tubing area, two new proposals aimed at attracting more outdoor enthusiasts to the areas for both winter and summer activities are under review.

Ascutney Lofts owners Mark Morse and Yulia Moskvina are proposing to build six, small cabin-style houses along Route 44 next to the post office that would be rented to out-of-town visitors

A public hearing on the proposal will be held by the West Windsor Development Review Board on Tuesday beginning with a site visit at 5:45 to the property and continuing in Story Memorial Hall at 6:30.

The Ascutney Trails Association, a sister group to Ascutney Outdoors that maintains about 40 miles of biking trails in the town forest, has received local approval to build three “flow trails” and a bike skills park. The application is now being reviewed for an Act 250 permit, ATA President Erik Schutz said

The Planned Unit Development (PUD) outlined in the Ascutney Lofts application for a conditional use permit states the rental units would be 420 square feet measuring 15 by 28 feet.

Moskvina said the proposal conforms to the town plan that includes development in the village center, where a sewer line was installed several years ago. Additionally, their proposal, which is described as “low-impact on municipal resources, aligns with the stated town plan goal to “support the recreational initiatives that bring visitors to the town to support the local economy and provide recreational activities for residents.”

“It fits for how people will want to stay in Brownsville,” Morse said in a phone interview, adding that the proposal has received favorable reaction from local businesses and it will fill a niche market.

“I have stayed in them and it is a great way to vacation,” Morse said about what some refer to as “tiny houses.”

They will be advertised to those interested in renting for access to a range of outdoor activities including, hiking, biking, skiing and snowmobiling, according to the application.

The cabins will have two bedrooms, one in a loft, a bathroom, a kitchen with stove, dishwasher and refrigerator with a total living space of 525 square feet. A 12 by 12 patio made of natural stone material will be outside each unit.

Morse said the cabins will be energy efficient and there will be a hookup for electric charging vehicles.

If all required approvals are obtained, Morse said they would like to construct the units this construction season but that is not certain.

Ascutney Trails Association president Erik Schutz said ATA received a zoning permit from the town to construct three “machine built flow trails,” a hand built climbing trail to access the flow trails and a bike skills park.

Schutz described riding down a flow trail, with banked turns and jumps, “like a roller coaster on a bike” with gravity, not pedaling, is where riders get most of their speed.

“They snake their way down with berms that you ride up on,” he said, adding that building them with a machine makes for a smoother and cleaner trail.

The Stump Jumper in Claremont’s Moody Park has a similar design with banked turns.

Two of the flow trails, which will connect to the existing trail network in the town forest, will be 3,000 feet and 4,100 feet respectively and both will merge farther down to a 2,100-foot trail that will end at the bike skills park. The park will be near the parking lot and the Ascutney Outdoors Center.

Schutz said the bike skills park will be mostly built up mounds of “sculpted” dirt where riders can work on their skills such as jumping and landing that can be applied on the flow trails.

ATA is waiting to hear if it is approved for $100,000 VOREC (Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative) grant which would pay 100 percent of the construction costs, Schutz said.

Without the grant, they should be able to build the lower trail and skills park with other funds available, he added.

Schutz said they would like to construct the trails this spring, assuming the grant is received and the Act 250 permit approved.

Ascutney Outdoors, a non-profit, manages the town’s skiing and tubing area and maintains the center. AO Executive Director Glenn Seward said the operation has been hugely successful thanks primarily to the active group of about 100 volunteers.

“It has really exceeded expectations,” Seward said. “We have a very solid core of 100 volunteers who make things happened here. We are very grateful to them.’

Seward 20 to 30 volunteers are needed when the skiing and tubing areas are active on a weekend and they never have a problem getting people to work a few hours.

Last year there more than 5,000 people used the area and that number is down this year because the operation relies 100 percent on natural snow and it opened than it did in the 2020-21 season.

The town-owned operation has a T-bar and tow rope that services about 12 trails and a tubing run. It opened three years after the town, with the help of the Trust for Public Land, completed purchase of 460 acres of the former Mount Ascutney Ski Resort, which was later added to the town forest bringing it to about 1,500 acres.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com




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