Op/Ed Opinion

Letter to the editor: Questions answered about proposed hut at Silver Lake

The Moosalamoo Association (MA) and Vermont Huts Association (VHA) would like to respond to concerns we’ve heard from fellow outdoor recreation enthusiasts regarding an overnight hut potentially being built near Silver Lake. The proposed site is on the east side of Silver Lake, which lies within the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area (MNRA), one of 40 NRAs nationwide and one of two in Vermont. NRA status is a unique Federal designation that recognizes the quality of this area for recreating.

Several locations within MNRA were scouted by the MA/VHA/USFS team and factors taken into consideration for site selection included topography, access, soil conditions, and proximity to other campers and infrastructure.

The proposed site is walk-in/walk-out, leave no trace, and can be reached from the Falls of Lana and Silver Lake East parking lots within one-hour or less via hikes in either direction, thus making it accessible to families, elders, and mobility-impaired. Multi-day hikers can reach the hut within a few miles of the Long Trail and the North Country Trail.

The proposed site is equidistant between the southernmost privy and the Leicester Hollow Trail/Goshen Trail intersection that accesses the Silver Lake East parking lot. This location eliminates the need to add an additional privy, and is within walking distance to a water source for campers’ use. The proposed site is on the east (uphill not lakeside) side of the Leicester Hollow Trail, approximately 315’ from the Silver Lake shoreline. It may be possible to see some of the hut from the lake during the winter, but not when trees are leafed-out. The site is slightly uphill from an old, abandoned campsite.

The hut would be managed by VHA in partnership with MA. It is similar in design to one being built at Grout Pond in Stratton and part of VHA’s statewide hut network. It is 1 ½ stories, 16’ x 24’ living space plus an attached 16’ x 8’ screened porch, for a total footprint of 16’ x 32’. The hut can accommodate up to 10 guests and is outfitted with camp mattresses, low-wattage DC lights, a heat source, and a small cooktop for meal preparation. There are no electrical outlets for appliances or charging of any portable devices.

VHA, MA, and USFS share a common goal: Make public lands more accessible. All huts on public lands are ADA accessible. On average, one night’s rental ranges from $65-$165/night or $6.50-$16.50/per person at full occupancy, making it affordable for almost anyone, especially lower-income households, disadvantaged, and underserved communities. Because the hut is equipped with necessities, campers can experience the backcountry without making a large investment in tents, cooking utensils, camp stoves, etc. The affordability factor increases access for everyone.

Vermont’s network of huts is used by people from all walks of life. Users include experienced hut-to-hut hikers or skiers. Or, it could be a family with small children who want to introduce their kids to the forest, but appreciate the security of four walls. On the opposite end of life, older folks might want to spend a quiet fall or summer night in that area but shy away because they don’t want to carry all the gear needed to go tent-camping. The hut is a good alternative for both groups. Roughly 80% of users are fellow Vermonters.

Revenue generated from hut rentals goes directly back into the hut for stewardship, employing a local caretaker, and overhead to keep booking fees affordable. The caretaker may also serve as a trail steward, assisting with routine maintenance of the trail(s) used to access the hut. This is an added benefit to the Silver Lake area. Any additional revenue supports future hut maintenance and additional programming, including VHA’s FOREST Program, providing underserved local communities with free, two-day retreats in the backcountry. For more information on the Forest Program’s sustainability, teamwork, and recreation impact, visit vermonthuts.org/forest-program.

The Moosalamoo Association also has an educational component as part of its mission in which area school students are invited into the Moosalamoo for various activities, and the Silver Lake Hut would expand those opportunities to other schools.

While there has been some suggestion that this project has been conceived in secret, that is not the case. USFS District Ranger Christopher Mattrick has met with Goshen’s and Salisbury’s selectboards as part of USFS’s annual review. A meeting with Leicester’s selectboard is pending.

The project is currently under review by the USFS. The process includes a review by a GMNF natural resources specialist, a USFS archeologist analysis of the site, and Vermont State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) approval. A proposal of this nature also includes a formal, 60-day public comment period. We anticipate the public comment period will begin sometime in June, with notification broadcasted through various mediums, allowing ample opportunity for public input and documentation.

We encourage readers’ questions. Preliminary information and an FAQ are available on Moosalamoo Association’s website at moosalamoo.org/hut

Sue Hoxie, Executive Director, M
oosalamoo Association

RJ Thompson, Executive Director, V
ermont Huts Association

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