NEK GRAVEL RIDES WEBSITE LAUNCHES
For Immediate Release
DATE: June 5, 2020
CONTACT: Cynthia Stuart & Claire Polfus, firstname.lastname@example.org
The new NEK Gravel Rides website (www.nekgravel.org) recently launched to encourage physical activity and promote community access to some of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which can be accessed from over 1,000 miles of gravel roads.
Through a Vermont Municipal Planning Grant, the towns of Concord and Burke initiated the NEK Gravel Rides project to encourage outdoor recreation in the region and promote visitation to town centers and businesses. The initial project goals also included promoting the NEK to visitors and year-round residents, educating riders, supporting diverse user groups, strengthening connections between communities, and relieving yraffic congestion in East Burke Village. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, website promotion to visitors is on hold with website messaging requesting visitors postpone coming to the Northeast Kingdom until it is safe to do so. However, local residents are encouraged to enjoy the phase I routes.
On the website, riders can find a large map of gravel roads in the Northeast Kingdom as well as six curated routes based out of Concord and Burke. There are downloadable GPS files, maps and cue sheets, detailed information and photos for each ride. There is also a page with safety recommendations and another with links to area businesses. Additional routes in the towns of St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville, Sutton and Waterford will be added this summer as part of a second project phase. New routes will further disperse riders throughout the region to increase economic opportunities for restaurants, downtown businesses, and lodging.
Katherine Sims, Director of the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, expressed excitement about the project, “The NEK Gravel Project is a great new component to the recreation economy in the Northeast Kingdom. Not only does it provide a range of routes for visitors and locals alike to use to explore the beauty of our region, it also promotes local businesses and visitation to town centers. The NEK Collaborative is happy to see another resource that integrates so many of our regional priorities.”
Along with showcasing the beautiful rural scenery, the NEK Gravel Rides project encourages young working professionals to consider the NEK as a safe and healthy place to live. Gretchen Boswell, Administrative and Communications Coordinator of the NEK Young Professionals Network shared, “As a volunteer-based organization working to support young professionals in making both personal and professional connections, the NEK Young Professionals Network (NEK YPN) sees the power of unifying initiatives like the NEK Gravel Rides Project. Also, as the organizers for the NEK chapter of the Vermont Welcome Wagon Project, the NEK YPN is motivated to also support new Vermonters in establishing here in the NEK. It is movements like the NEK Gravel Rides Project that help to make this region and community both more attractive and more engaged, and the NEK YPN fully supports this shared goal of building our local economy starting with our residents and young professionals.”
Outdoor exercise is known to improve both physical and mental well-being, and now more than ever we need to focus on our personal health. Joe Fox, Director of Recreational Programs at St. Johnsbury Academy supports regional recreation opportunities like the NEK Gravel Rides project, “As Director of Recreational Programs at St. Johnsbury Academy, a big part of my job is to help promote and support healthy opportunities for recreation in our region. I am very proud to lend a voice of support to the NEK Gravel Rides project. As an avid outdoor recreationist myself, who enjoys trail running, skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and mountain and backroads biking; I believe t here may be no more enjoyable way to enjoy the beautiful countryside of the Northeast Kingdom than on a bicycle. There’s something about packing some light snacks and a few water bottles and heading out on an adventure. In the twenty-plus years I’ve lived in the Northeast Kingdom, I continue to find new roads, hills, and valleys to explore not far from home. The folks involved in this project have done a great job putting together some suggested rides that I think folks will really enjoy. I hope people will try some out and get out there and explore!”
The NEK Gravel Rides website features project supporters, partners, and funders including businesses like The Mooselook Diner, Burke Mountain Maple Company, Kingdom Campground, NVDA, and NEK Prosper to name a few. Promotion of businesses throughout the region will expand as routes are added. The project is focused on bringing community members and (when safe to do so) visitors into our downtown centers. All of the rides start and end at public parking lots near downtowns so riders can stop at a local bakery or coffee shop before their ride in the morning, pick up any missing gear from the local bike shop and end their day toasting their adventure at the local brewery. By promoting business development in town centers, economic vitality of the region is bolstered while also preserving the rural character outside of town centers.
Cynthia Stuart, Concord resident and project manager stated, “We all live, work, recreate, and enjoy this region we call home. We rely on the vibrancy and economic vitality of the whole region as we shop at local grocery stores in one town, work at a business in another town, and recreate outdoors in any towns. Every day, we utilize regional economic resources outside of the towns where we pay property taxes. Post COVID-19, it will be critical that leaders in the Northeast Kingdom think strategically and work collectively on projects like the NEK Gravel Rides to support a vibrant economic recovery.”
The NEK Gravel Rides website can be found at www.nekgravel.org