Reflecting on South Pond

The former South Pond cabin. Photo: The Trust for Public Land

 

Our executive director’s thoughts on the recent tragedy at South Pond

 

It has been just over a week since we learned about the loss of the beautiful South Pond cabin in Chittenden. When I first heard it had burned to the ground, I was naturally stunned, for I had just completed a site visit to the cabin two weeks prior with Kate Wanner of The Trust for Public Land, and we were beginning to develop a long-term management plan for the hut’s inclusion in our network.

 

The structure itself was in fantastic shape, and a weekend’s worth of contractor or volunteer labor would have had it ready for public use this summer through a Vermont Huts / Trust for Public Land partnership. The cabin’s finished walk-out basement would have allowed for a hostel-style bunk arrangement for hikers coming off the Long Trail looking for a place to stay and relax. For those traveling with a family or simply looking for more privacy, there were three bedrooms that would have served as private room rentals.

 

The nearby Catamount Trail users would have also benefited from such accommodations during winter months, and mountain bikers would have been able to spend some time out of the saddle at the cabin once the emerging Velomont Trail made its way past South Pond. The year-round live-in caretaker could have provided meals for those looking for a hot dish after their long excursion or before they departed on their next journey.

 

Alas, those visions of sharing conversations around a campfire while the sun set over the distant Adirondacks have quite literally gone up in flames. There is no justification for the destruction of such a beautiful structure, especially one being re-purposed for public enjoyment. Whatever their motivations, the culprit(s) have not only deprived Vermonters of something unique and special, but they also eliminated employment opportunities for those who would have cared for and maintained the South Pond cabin and its immediate surroundings.

Remains of the South Pond cabin.

 

But I am finished dwelling on what might have been at South Pond. For me, the time for reflection has passed, and we will continue to work with The Trust for Public Land and Green Mountain National Forest to explore the potential for a new path forward. The remediation efforts involved with such a remote location will take time and money, and there are a number of questions that remain unanswered. Patience can be challenging at a time like this, so let’s focus on what we can control to ensure our organization’s success isn’t compromised by one tragic event.

 

If you want to help us stay on track, please consider making a general donation to our organization. No amount is too small. And if you’ve been holding off on becoming a member, joining now is a great way to start the New Year.

 

Lastly, let’s not forget the incredible work we have achieved since Vermont Huts formed in 2016. Over a dozen conceptual hut sites have been identified between Killington and Stowe (and we’ll be submitting formal proposals for some of those sites this year), we’re playing a key part in developing the Velomont Trail with VMBA, and our first hut is still scheduled to open this summer once all paperwork is finalized. To top it off, we have nearly 200 members and thousands of followers who are passionate about what we’re doing.

 

We’ll have other hurdles to navigate in the future, but in true Vermont fashion, we’ll keep moving forward no matter what’s thrown at us.

 

In solidarity,

RJ Thompson

Executive Director

 

Anyone with information related to the South Pond fire is asked to call the state’s arson tip line: 1-800-32-ARSON (1-800-322-7766)

RJ Thompson

RJ lives to be in the mountains, and he loves sharing his passion for the outdoors with anyone who is willing to join him on foot, skis, or bike. His love for the Green Mountains began in 2002 while studying at the University of Vermont, which led him to complete an M.S. in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. When RJ is inside, you can find him dancing to random folk songs with his wife, Olivia.