Outdoor Secrets Unwrapped: Can Bennington be an outdoor mecca?

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Being in the outdoors professionally for 31 years, and having traveled all over the country to enjoy the great outdoors, I came to Bennington in 2012 and unbeknownst to me I ended up right smack dab in the Northeast's outdoor mecca.

Following along with the local politics here in Bennington, I've come to understand that many ideas have been tried to gain the town its identity, such as music, arts and crafts, along with the many fine festivals the town offers, which is what I call a flash-in-the-pan idea: It's great to get people to come for the weekend. Then what ?

The one idea that has never been explored is "Come to Bennington and enjoy the great outdoors."

The town of Bennington has some of the finest fishing in the state, let alone in the entire Northeast. It proved to be a banner year for deer hunting in Bennington and Bennington County, with 4.34 deer per square mile, along with the recognition of the most deer harvested statewide. And with 100,000 turkey hunters invading Vermont during the month of May, it should be enough to pique interest in our town leaders, let alone the constituency, here in this town of 15,000.

The town of Bennington also has a trail head off of North Branch Street that leads to some of the best hiking trails in the country; and right here in our own backyard are miles of bike trails throughout Bennington and Bennington county.

"We have a lot of resources we have not explored yet for the outdoors," said Michael Harrington, economic development director, "It's a viable asset that should be looked into further."

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"Chris, we are 20 minutes from Orvis, 35 minutes from the outlet stores in Manchester and if you go south 35 minutes you're in North Adams," said Harrington. "So the possibility of enjoying the great outdoors here in Bennington along with the complementing surrounding towns and events would be the complete package."

In Vermont the outdoor industry provides 35,000 jobs and is responsible for 12 percent of the state gross product and nationally it grosses $287 billion and generates 187 million in tax revenue, which is nothing to look down on. How much of that tax revenue is Bennington receiving?

The days of the factories and blue collar employees are long gone here. When you become comfortable in a way of life, you lose sight of what's going on around you. We live in a beautiful town with a picturesque backdrop with that Norman Rockwell feel so many talk about.

We have the right ingredients to make this a new hustling and bustling town that outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country will want to come and enjoy: The great outdoors, from our hiking trails to our fantastic fishing and everything in between.

My question to the town of Bennington is "Are you willing to give this outdoor idea a good look?"

Chris Bates hosts "Outdoor Secrets Unwrapped" with Stephanie Calabro which can be seen daily on CAT-TV, GNAT-TV, OrcamMedia and www.thehuntingchannelonline.com. To contact Chris Bates, email chrisbates227@msn.com.


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