Help Create a Town Forest in Richmond
The town of Richmond is on its way to creating a 428-acre town forest less than a mile from the village. The land is located on Route 2 near the Monitor Barns and extends up into a vast stretch of forested wildlife habitat. See map.
A town forest on this land will give residents and visitors an easily accessible place with opportunities for hiking, hunting, skiing, watching wildlife, and more. The land will also serve as an outdoor classroom for children and as a timber resource for the town. Three streams that flow into the Winooski River are located on the land—protecting the forest around these streams will be good for water quality downstream.
The property is owned by the Andrews family, who wants to sell the land and strongly prefers to see it remain forested and be open to the public.
The Vermont Land Trust has signed a purchase agreement on the land, and has raised the money for the town to buy the land for its natural, economic, and recreational values, and conserve it with VLT. Now we are working to create a stewardship fund for the future town forest. You can help with a contribution to the Town Management Fund, which could finance trails, parking, signage, and more.
How this came about
The forestland is part of the Andrews family’s Gray Rocks Farm, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Andrews siblings have been working with the Vermont Land Trust to find the best outcome for their historic farm. In 2013 they conserved farmland located next to the VYCC monitor barn. This farmland is now owned by Maple Wind Farm and used for grazing livestock.
Recreation and education opportunities
The land has a VAST trail and opportunities for hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking, hunting, birdwatching, and more. The Richmond Trails Committee is excited about the opportunity to connect trails at Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to the Old Jericho Road Trail and Richmond Village. For its part, VYCC is excited about the potential for trail creation partnerships resulting in a larger “outdoor classroom” for participants.
The property has been actively managed under a forest management plan, which can continue under town ownership.
Through a public process, the community will develop a Town Forest Management Plan to decide how the property will be used. Options frequently mentioned by the community include hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, wildlife habitat protection, timber harvests, and outdoor education.
The community is eager to keep the land as part of the working landscape and for outdoor education for all ages. There has been enthusiasm for the project from local teachers, with a private pre-school, Camel’s Hump Middle School, and Richmond Elementary all about a mile away. Diverse natural features, vernal pools, a beaver pond, an old cellar hole, and a rich history, offer education opportunities for all ages.
The land’s environmental significance
The land has excellent wildlife habitat, including: many nut- and seed-producing tree stands; vernal pools that are essential to amphibian breeding; a beaver pond; three streams; and a large area where deer spend the winter.
The land is also home to a dry oak forest, which is rare in Vermont. Protecting rare sites such as these are important for the future of biodiversity.
Most importantly, the land is a key part of a much larger, mostly protected, block of forest that connects Camel’s Hump State Park with Mount Mansfield State Park. To date, the groups that have been working to protect these upland forests—known as the Chittenden County Uplands—have conserved 10,000 acres.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife ranks this forest in the top 3% of Vermont’s wildlife habitat blocks. The National Audubon Society considers this area as Vermont’s only “Globally Significant Important Bird Area” for its critical role as breeding grounds for neo-tropical, migratory bird species.
There are three streams that flow across the Andrews forestland into the Winooski River and then on to Lake Champlain.
Protecting the forest from development will benefit the quality of the water flowing to the lake and reduce flood risks in the lower Winooski River basin. This is because the forest’s trees absorb large amounts of water, thereby reducing the volume in the streams during heavy rains. Their roots also add stability to banks and prevent erosion.
What needs to happen to save this land
The Town of Richmond, in partnership with the Vermont Land Trust, has raised the money to purchase the Andrews land as a Richmond Town Forest. The Andrews Family has generously offered to sell their property for less than its full value in support of this project.
We have been very successful in receiving grants. These have come from the federal Community Forest Program, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the Open Space Institute, the Conservation Alliance, and of course, the Richmond Conservation Fund.
There was an overwhelmingly positive vote at Richmond’s Town Meeting for the purchase of the land and the creation of the Richmond Town Forest. We are working to make this dream become a reality in early 2018.
We are now in the process of raising enough money to create a stewardship fund, which will provide for the maintenance and improvement of the town forest. So far we have raised $17,000. Help us raise another $18,000 to give our town forest a strong start with a donation to the Town Management Fund!
Banner photo by Olivia Wolf.