Amid Good Results, Officials Continue the Perry Hill Winter Recreation Management Pilot Program
Waterbury, VT – The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) is pleased to announce that the pilot winter recreation program in the Perry Hill Block within CC Putnam State Forest in Waterbury will continue through winter 2023. The program aims to reduce negative impacts from winter trail use to an important deer wintering area while providing an enjoyable and popular winter recreational experience for the public.
The pilot program, begun in 2021 in partnership with the town of Waterbury and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA), establishes two use zones at Perry Hill: a designated winter recreation zone and a designated deer wintering zone. Groomed fat biking, snow shoeing, and cross-country skiing are allowed on select trails in the winter recreation zone, with particular attention given to providing favorable trail conditions for all uses. Trail use is not allowed in the deer wintering zone, although dispersed pedestrian recreation is not restricted. It is important that visitors understand the need to limit disturbance to wildlife in this zone. The deer wintering zone will be identified with signs on site. Information about the management objectives and user ethics at Perry Hill will be available on interpretive panels at the trailhead kiosk.
“Since the beginning of this pilot program, the public has responded positively to this opportunity, and we are seeing the outcomes we were hoping for. Therefore, we are pleased to continue offering winter hiking and fat biking opportunities at Perry Hill. We look forward to another successful winter,” says Becca Washburn, Director of Lands Administration and Recreation at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
Deer wintering areas are important habitat for deer and other species. 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. FPR, along with partners at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, designed the pilot program to protect the functional deer wintering area at Perry Hill from potential impacts of rising recreational use.
Trail counter data collected during the winters of 2021 and 2022 has demonstrated a high rate of compliance with the use zones in the pilot program. FPR, along with its partners, expects that the public will continue to respect wildlife as they enjoy the winter recreation zone this season.
“With two pilot seasons of winter use management at Perry Hill to compare, more clarity has been developed regarding the effectiveness of our management efforts,” said Walter Opuszynski, FPR Forest Recreation Specialist. “The data is showing that use of the parcel continued to be focused within the area being managed for winter recreation.”
The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA), a non-profit trails organization based in Waterbury, 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.
“The program has been very promising and much of that is due to the adherence our community has had to these management strategies. It is incredible to see the data, interpret it, and see how these plans that were worked on for years play out. Furthermore, we are very happy that WATA has local business partners that are behind this vision and support us as well,” said John Duston, WATA’s Program Director.
FPR and WATA have established guidelines for user behavior, and information about the management objectives and user ethics at Perry Hill will be available on interpretive panels at the trailhead kiosk. Complete details can be found at WATA’s website:
All users can help by respecting the established deer wintering zone, staying on groomed trails, and not using the trails if breaking through the surface more than one inch. FPR asks users to focus their recreation activity on the following trail corridors: Main Climb, Campfire, S’Mores, Joe’s, Six Flags, and Scotch Tape (see attached map)
Dogs should be leashed or left at home, as dogs can chase wildlife and cause them additional stress during a very vulnerable time of year.
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.