Amid opposition, Forest Service rejects Silver Lake hut project

The proposed hut at Silver Lake would have been almost identical in design to this hut design at Grout Pond in Stratton. Courtesy of Vermont Huts Association

The U.S. Forest Service on Friday rejected a controversial proposal to build a backcountry hut at Silver Lake, saying the project “might tangibly alter” the experience of visiting the recreation site.

But the Forest Service did not rule out the chance for a hut at another location within the Addison County wilderness area.

The Vermont Huts Association and the Moosalamoo Association, two outdoor recreation nonprofits, had been seeking federal permission to build a one-and-a-half story, 10-person hut on the eastern shore of Silver Lake, a popular destination in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area.

But the plan ran into opposition from local residents, who feared the hut would attract more visitors and harm the site’s natural environment.

In a memo Friday, a Forest Service official appeared to nod to those concerns. 

Christopher Mattrick, a district ranger supervising the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, wrote that he decided to back away from the plan because “the proposed hut design and location might tangibly alter the experience of the users approaching Silver Lake on the Goshen and Leicester Hollow Trails, as well as the Silver Lake Campground itself.”

Mattrick emphasized that he “strongly believe(s)” that the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area is an appropriate site for a backcountry hut. The agency plans to look for other possible locations for a structure. 

Galina Chernaya, a Goshen resident who marshaled opposition to the project, expressed elation about the Forest Service’s decision. 

“I’m just actually taking my small backpack to go to the lake and celebrate,” she said. “I’ve got a little bottle of sparkling wine with me.”

Backers of the hut project hope to create a network of shelters that linked Vermont’s wilderness areas. 

A hut within the Moosalamoo area, advocates said, would give through-hikers coming from a hut at Chittenden Brook a place to stay before heading into the Bread Loaf Wilderness Area.

“Huts like the one proposed will allow many more residents to enjoy overnight camping, particularly in the winter months when cold weather prevents most from venturing outdoors overnight,” Angelo Lynn, the president of the Moosalamoo Association, which maintains the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, said in an email.

But opponents expressed concern that the project would spoil the peace of the remote wilderness area. The structure would also likely use fossil fuels for heating, they said, and could disturb Native American artifacts, which have been found at the site. 

The lake is, and should stay, “an oasis of solitude,” Chernaya said. “Which is a very rare place these days.”

RJ Thompson, executive director of the Vermont Huts Association, said in an email that the organization was “happy to be a part of such an engaged public comment period, and we appreciate everyone who took the time to voice their opinion about the project.”

The hut project’s backers noted that Mattrick supported a plan for a hut within Moosalamoo, and said they would look for another location for a backcountry structure. 

Sue Hoxie, executive director of the Moosalamoo Association, said she was not surprised by the decision, but plans to continue advocating for a structure in a different location.

“(We’re) happy that we will continue with our quest to have a hut within Moosalamoo,” Hoxie said. 

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