You can help put the Ashley Community Forest on the map
February 2020: The funds to acquire the land and cover associated project costs, including future management and long-term easement stewardship, have been raised. The Alliance for Vermont Communities, VLT, and the Ashley Forest Committee continue to work with the towns of Sharon and Strafford to reach agreement on terms associated with permanent conservation and a two-town ownership structure.
The Ashley Community Forest is a beautiful 218-acre parcel that straddles the Sharon and Strafford boundary. The Alliance for Vermont Communities wishes to conserve and give the land to the residents of both towns to be used as a community resource for recreation, wildlife, historic preservation, timber, and scenic beauty for generations to come.
The Alliance was formed in 2016 by residents of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford and Tunbridge in response to the threat of a proposed out-of-scale development planned by the NewVistas Foundation. Supported by hundreds of people, the Alliance led the community effort to challenge the ill-conceived development.
By early 2018, David Hall, the NewVistas developer, continued to move forward with the project despite decisive “no” votes from all four communities at their 2017 Town Meetings. In mid-2018 together with the Vermont Land Trust and many local people, the Alliance purchased the Ashley parcel.
The acquisition satisfied two primary goals: to help block NewVistas and to plant seeds for establishing a Community Forest. Within a month of this key purchase, David Hall declared he was pulling out of the state and selling NewVistas’ 1500 acres.
We are about 90% from completing the project, only needing to raise $55,000 to meet our goal and make the Ashley Community Forest a regional resource in perpetuity.
The Community Forest will offer:
- Public access for hiking, skiing, hunting, picnicking and snowmobiling.
- A working woodland for long-term timber production.
- Exceptional wildlife habitat through a diverse array of forests, fields, wetlands and streams
- Educational opportunities to study and explore the wonders of the northern forest and contribute to the Forest’s stewardship through service projects.
- A well-developed trails network that directly links to trails on adjacent conserved land with potential to create an integrated community trail system for four season use through Sharon and Strafford and perhaps neighboring towns.
- A well preserved 19th- century farm complex to witness the Forest’s agricultural past.
- A forested parcel to complement over 854 contiguous acres of conserved working farm and forest. The Ashley Community Forest borders the Manning Farm recently conserved by the Upper Valley Land Trust, and the Robinson Farm recently conserved by the Vermont Land Trust.
- Advancement of the Sharon and Strafford town goals to promote forest and wildlife protection, preserve rural character, and expand recreational opportunities.
- Scenic beauty – the Ashley Community Forest has wonderful views, engaging trails and exquisite stone work.
How will it work?
The Ashley Community Forest will be permanently protected for public use through a conservation easement held by the Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Conservation Commission members from the towns of Sharon and Strafford are working together with the Alliance for Vermont Communities and the Vermont Land Trust to prepare for potential common ownership by the towns, including development of a management plan. Public input will be important in drafting the plan.
Supporting partners include: Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, Strafford Selectboard and Sharon Selectboard. The Upper Valley Trails Alliance will assist with trail development.
The remaining funds to be raised for the Ashley Community Forest includes $20,000 to seed a forest management fund overseen by a committee from both towns and Alliance for Vermont Communities. Local foresters have estimated that the timber revenue will make the Community Forest self-sustaining over time.
The total amount needed to establish the Community Forest is $523,100—this includes buying the land and costs for an appraisal, survey, forest management plan, legal expenses, and stewardship. Thanks to generous donors, a total of $468,000 has already been secured, leaving just $55,000 left to raise.
We need you ….
Over $468,000 has already been raised through grants and private donations. Only $55,000 remain to complete the project goals!
The recreational, ecological, and forestry value of this land has been an enormous factor in securing almost 90% of the funds to complete the project. Many donors have made financial commitments including these organizations: The Aloha Foundation, Emily Landecker Foundation, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Vermont Land Trust, and 35 generous individuals.