Vermont 100 Ride and Run - Will it continue?
When the Vermont 100 Mile Ride and Run committee met in mid-December it was an emotion packed evening. After 25 years, the event faced some hard decisions. Event coordinator, Julia Hutchinson O’Brien, addressed the committee by first thanking them for years of dedication to the race and then announced that due to increasing obligations to her growing family, she needed to step down. However, the most serious issue facing the event was whether or not it would continue at all. Despite a public apology to local residents about early morning fireworks, some neighbors still feel that the race needs to move. The event needs a permit from the town officials of West Windsor in order to continue.
The Vermont 100 Ride and Run raised $65,000 in 2013 for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport (VASS), which funds year round sport opportunities for disabled athletes including recovering soldiers. Although the sport of 100-mile ultramarathon started with both runners and horses, the Vermont 100 remains the last event in the world to have both participate on the same course at the same time. The course takes entrants through seven towns using mostly privately owned trails that are maintained annually the race committee. Other groups throughout the year enjoy many of these trails. Country stores, motels, restaurants and gas stations have one of their best weeks of the year due to this event.
Julia read off the options – to move the event out of the area, to hold one more final event at the current venue or to find a new director and work with the town officials to keep the event where it is. Without hesitation the group chose the third. “I know many of you are tired after putting in so many years to make this event a success,” stated Julia, “and we all know we need new people.” The committee, many of whom have been involved with the event since its start, agreed. “We will just have to find those people, “stated Dr. Heather Hoyns who works with the equestrian part of the race, “we have a lot of great local volunteers but most are not aware of the management part of the race. We need to bring them in.” “The toughest part is finding a replacement for Julia.” commented Lou Schmertz owner of the Skunk Hollow Tavern, “but this event is so good for local businesses that having it move out of the area or not happen is unthinkable.”
The committee was not unsympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns about the congestion the event brings to a very rural area. Suggestions were brought forth such as directing all traffic to the race site on paved roads using only a short section of dirt road. Entrants will be asked to limit themselves to one vehicle at the site to help reduce the traffic. “This area might see fifty cars in a day”, explains ride site landowner, Sue Greenall, “but for the three days of the race there are five hundred plus the large trucks and trailers with the horses.” Plans have already been made to move the trail away from neighboring houses and to work with the local officials to make the event less disruptive. Several sites in the area have been reviewed for relocation but none have been found suitable for both runners and horses. “We have all agreed that we don’t want to split the event,” says Julia, “after all, we are the last one to have both.”
2014 will see the Vermont 100 Ride and Run at Silver Hill Meadow in West Windsor, VT. , but without cooperation from entrants and local support, this could be the last race. “We hope that is not the case, but a lot has to happen in the next six months,” was Julia’s final comment.