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NEMBA's Land Management Committee

Focuses on “Vietnam”
by Mitchell Steinberg (SingleTracks #74, 2004)

After accomplishing the incredible feat of becoming the first mountain bike group to purchase and own property, many folks are wondering what's going on with Vietnam. Here’s an update about what we’ve been doing, and a glimpse into where we are going with the property.


A Brief History


In the fall of 2003, as NEMBA's purchase of the Liner property seemed imminent, the NEMBA Board of Directors decided it would be a good idea to put together a land management committee to oversee Vietnam. It quickly became evident that even before a land management committee could be assembled, some thought needed to go into just what this committee would do, who would be on it, how they would be selected, and how this committee would interact with the NEMBA BOD. So, in the fall of 2003, the Vietnam Land Management Steering Committee was born made up of a group of NEMBA BOD members. This group put together a "guiding principles" document that built upon work that had been done by the original major donors to the Vietnam Land Preservation Fund and also a document answering many of the above questions regarding how the VLMC would operate. Additionally, an outline for an overall land management plan was produced. In November, 2003, the NEMBA BOD accepted the proposals, appointed Mitch Steinberg Vietnam Land Management chairperson, and the search for an actual land management committee began.


After discussions with a number of riders who frequently ride Vietnam and live within a reasonably close distance, five people were selected. In Jan, 2004, the current makeup of the VLMC was blessed by the NEMBA BOD, and in February, 2004, the VLMC had their first meeting. The VLMC consists of Mitchell Steinberg, Dan Ibbitson, John Goeller ("Splat" for those of you hardcore NEMBA forum folks), John Vosburg, and Pete Long with considerable input from NEMBA's fearless leader, Philip Keyes. Collectively, the group represents a variety of riding styles and brings a range of experience such as trail maintenance expertise and environmental knowledge. John G. and John V. live in Holliston (one of our neighboring land owners), and everyone on the committee rides frequently at Vietnam. Dave Mitchell, a Milford resident, will be joining the committee to help act as a liason to this community.


What's happening now?


Over the last few months, the committee has discussed a number of topics and is focused on putting together short term and long term goals for managing the property. The number one short term goal has been to work the political channels with the Holliston and Milford Conservation Committees and establish ourselves as "good neighbors." One of the problems that we face as mountain bikers is that we're still somewhat the "new kids on the block," and our neighboring land owners are taking a bit of a "wait and see" attitude regarding us. It's essential that we prove that we're responsible and will be good stewards of the land. While we now own about 47 acres, the total Vietnam area consists of about 1000 acres, so it's imperative that we present a good image so that we can continue to ride the entire area. Also, since NEMBA's property is land locked, access is only through our neighbors' properties.


As for other short term goals, you will soon see some "no motor vehicles" signs appearing at various entry points. Working with the Holliston Conservation Committee, John Vosburg (now a member of the Holliston Open Space Committee) has begun the process of identifying vernal pools on the NEMBA property.


In the background, we're also working on a longer term land management plan to be presented to the NEMBA BOD to help set the overall direction and agenda for managing the property. We'd also like this to be a model that we can bring to some of the other land owners so that we can help formulate a more comprehensive plan for the overall area.


What's next?


The really fun part of owning the property-managing the trail system, rerouting and/or installing new trails-has barely begun. Now that spring has arrived and we're out riding the trails again, we will start taking a look and soliciting ideas on ways to improve and enhance the trail system itself. We will probably not be doing any major trail work until this fall, after we've had a chance to think through a number of options. Ultimately, we'd like to see a comprehensive trail system with perhaps some signs at key intersections, but this will take a coordinated effort with our neighbors.


Here are some of the other things that we're starting to address. We will be increasing communication with the mountain bike community through SingleTracks articles like this, website postings, etc. There have been requests for guided rides for folks who are not familiar with the property but would like to ride there, so we will probably put some rides together for the summer.


In general, this has been and will continue to be a learning experience for all of us. Since no other mountain bike group has bought and managed land before, there's not much precedent to follow. So, if you have any questions or ideas, send an email to mscomm@charter.net. Don't forget to read the Vietnam FAQ page!