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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Dog driver tails: gratitude and luck

Last week the first ice out occurred causing flooding as “jumble ice” was thrown onto the lower elevation farm fields and property along the banks of the Mad River and her smaller tributaries. Those "lower elevation" VAST trails are now closed. Hopefully the damage to the farm fields isn't significant, but there's still no telling what might lie within that ice until it’s all melted. The local flooding spared homes and lives (as far as I know). We were lucky.


The tsunami left my native Hawaiian friends and their beachfront fishing homes safe, but they still await word about their families, loved ones, teaching colleagues and the many students they work with who live in Japan. The stress and concern is palpable through our email conversations.

The horrific tragedy in Japan puts everything in perspective.

I’m trying to remember not to complain about the temporary minor inconveniences of mud season nor the ice dam on our roof causing a window to leak and drip. It’s part of the seasonal adventure of Vermont living. It’s insignificant with all else going on in Japan as well as the rest of the turmoil and war around the world.

I feel gratitude for all that I have and want to take the time to thank everyone in this community who helps to enrich our lives with all that they do, give and contribute for the benefit of all of us.  Certainly, each of the emergency services folks, security personnel and health care service providers of all types need our thanks. So do all the folks who give their time to serve on each of the myriad boards and committees of our towns’ governance as well as the boards and committees of the many organizations within our communities.  The service organizations and groups are to be thanked for all they do year round to raise funds to assist folks and other organizations in need.

Not to be forgotten are the thanks to be given to all the service providers, local business owners and all their employees who provide our services, goods and needs and add to our local economy. That includes all the folks related to the various forms of communication services to keep us connected, informed and entertained. The children are our future, and their educators deserve our thanks for all they provide, for their expertise, caring and nurturing. (So do all the folks who work within our school system in various capacities.)

I’m always mindful of our local farmers, food producers, chefs and restaurants who supply us with local, fresh, nourishing, delicious and organic food of all types. How lucky we are! How grateful I am to live here.

I have so much to be thankful for on a daily basis. As a dog musher coming to the end of our winter training season on snow, I want to express my thanks to all who have contributed to my personal joy and pleasure. The scenic beauty, natural resources, flora and fauna of the Mad River Valley makes me smile on a daily basis.  My gratitude for the abundant recreational opportunities of all types--and the many places to recreate--overflows constantly.

Eventually the snow will be gone and the mud will dry out and return to hard dirt. Then, during the coolest temperatures, we’ll be back out on the trails and dirt roads, training our dogs while they run and pull various non-motorized wheeled things (gig, cart, bike or scooter). Thanks to all who share their land and trails and allow us to do so!  Thanks to all who watch out for us as we share the trails and roads with you. Thanks to all who put their loose dogs in a “sit-stay,” put on leashes and/or securely hold their dogs until we are past your dog(s).

Extra special heartfelt thanks to the generous farmers and private landowners for sharing your land with all of us! I realize that this is a privilege you offer and as path, VAST and other trail users, we all need to respect your land and follow any requests or requirements you ask when you agree to share your land.

The Neills have generously shared their land for the past 20-plus years since the Mad River Path Association was created. Many, many thanks to the Neill family for allowing trails to be created on their property for community use. I understand the reasons why Elwin is ending his agreement with the Mad River Path Association and withdrawing permission to use their land. It’s a huge loss for The Valley, for the residents and visitors. It’s my fervent hope that this can be changed.

Perhaps a way can be found, expediently, to offer significant “land owner incentives” to those who share their land for recreational purposes. We’re in incredibly tough economic times, but perhaps there might be a way to offer tax relief for landowners who share their land for recreational purposes. Perhaps that relief can be proportionally based on acreage or mileage that is open for recreational use by the public. The “tricky” part is that this will need to be done without diminishing the landowner liability protection that comes with landowner’s sharing their land.

(Vermont has one of the best private landowner liability laws in the nation related to recreation. See www.vtfpr.org/pdf/pubrec.pdf

Special thanks and gratitude to all the volunteers who do the hard work of creating and maintaining a beautiful and safe network of trails for all of us to share. Thanks to the Mad River Path Association folks! Thanks to the Mad River Ridge Runners! Thanks to all the folks involved with The Valley's section of the Catamount and Long Trails! Thanks to the Green Mountain Club folks!

The Valley is lucky to have multi-user trails that allow various types of year-round recreational activities. I'm grateful and extend my sincerest thanks to all those groups and individuals for providing a wonderful gift for all of us to enjoy. (I also urge folks to pay dues and/or volunteer to help support these organizations.)

Thanks to all the various Valley businesses and individuals who help me out in a variety of ways when help via services or materials are needed.

Many thanks to all of The Valley’s numerous “givers and doers” mentioned (and any I might have inadvertently omitted). You are all the heart and soul of this Valley and the cogs on the wheel that keep The Valley going.

We are lucky to have you-- and I, for one, am grateful.


Breslauer lives in Fayston.




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