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BATS – “Blazing the Bennington Trails”

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Blazing the Bennington Trails

By Jesse Peters

 

Build it and they will come – that’s the hope for the Bennington Area Trail System, otherwise known as BATS. Partnered with Southern Vermont College, BATS has expanded from their original trail named “Hops and Vines” to now boasting about 8 miles of trails on the 400-acre campus. BATS is a nonprofit organization formed in 2015 by a group of outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to tap into the potential of the bountiful southwest Vermont landscape.

When forming BATS, the goal for the trails were to mirror the Kingdom Trails in Burke, VT (the largest trail system in Vermont), which has national recognition and brings in thousands of tourists each year. Although a system of that scale may be further into the future, BATS is doing everything they can to blaze the trail, literally!

Most trails behind the college are for intermediate to advanced bikers and hikers. However, BATS is planning to expand and connect their trails to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Bennington College trails, which are beginner level, to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy hiking and biking. The BATS trail system is marked similar to ski trails, with green indicating the easiest (for beginners) and double black diamond signifying the expert level.       

Andre-Anne Chenaille and Travis Mattison are Bennington residents and avid users of the trails for mountain biking. Chenaille is a regular at the local BMX track who has recently dipped her feet into mountain biking. “The trails are great, they’re a lot fun but pretty challenging,” said Chenaille. Mattison is an assistant cross-country ski coach for the local high school and cross-country mountain bike racer. “BATS is great for practice and training for my races, but mostly for having fun on my own time,” said Mattison.

A big event for BATS this year will be the 3rd Annual Trail Mix, happening on May 5th. In the first two years there have been guided runs, family-friendly walks, and guided women’s and co-ed mountain bike rides. 2017’s Trail Mix featured a beer garden, food vendors, mountain bikes for loan, and lots more! These exciting events are just some of the ways BATS is working toward getting the community involved and raising awareness of the incredible trail systems available to them. BATS is also currently organizing their first bike swap event in Bennington. SCOTT bicycle company will have their line of trail bikes from their demo program, and there will be a mountain bike raffle.

Jeb Gorham, a professor at Southern Vermont College, is also involved with BATS as a board member; his classes often participate in events like the Trail Mix. Gorham also joins the trail building and clean-up day every 3rd Sunday of the month.“It’s mostly me and the board members,” Gorham said, “but I bring my kids and they love watching people work with chainsaws and cut down trees; it’s a lot of fun.”

Whether you’re an avid hiker/biker or a novice looking to enjoy the trails for the first time, getting familiar with the Bennington Area Trail System is a great experience for any age.

If you would like to get involved by volunteering or joining as a member, visit their website www.batsvt.org to learn more. As a chapter of Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA), benefits of being a BATS member are the same; visit www.vmba.org for more information. Keep an eye out for opportunities to volunteer with building a new bike pump track, coming to Bennington soon!

1 Comment

One Response to “BATS – “Blazing the Bennington Trails””

  1. Greg Winterhalter on April 18th, 2018 5:35 pm

    Congrats to all the BATS supporters and trail works! This is a wonderful addition to the Bennington area and has huge potential for the future!

    GW

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