Originally from Greensboro, Oneal “Sonny” Demars Jr. has had a successful career as a developer in the Morrisville area. In 1984, he bought a portion forestland along Hardwood Flats Road in Elmore; over the years, he added several more parcels. The land is a recreational treasure thanks to a carefully tended trail network that he established with help from friends and neighbors.

“Sonny really enjoys being on the land, whether he is out on the trails, hiking, hunting, skiing or sugaring,” said neighbor Betsy Perez. Betsy’s husband, Dave Deciusies, grooms trails on Sonny’s land during the cross-country ski season. More than once, Dave said he has come home to a bottle of wine left on his steps as a thank you gift from trail users. Others leave donations at the Elmore Store to underwrite the cost of maintaining the trails.

This fall, Sonny conserved 1,020 acres of this diverse and stunning forest, complete with ridgelines, tributaries, beaver wetlands, a rare rich fen, and a meadow with views of the Worcester Range. There are two ponds with undeveloped shorelines: the 45-acre Hardwood Pond and 11-acre Little Pond. When asked why he wanted to protect it, Sonny simply said: “I just wanted the property to stay the way it is.”

“As part of permanently conserving this land, Sonny also stipulated that it would remain open to non-motorized public recreation, such as hiking and hunting,” explained VLT’s Carl Powden. “Sharing the forest with others is important to him.”

Over the past three years, VLT has bought nearly 7,000 acres near Sonny’s land. It also owns an additional 1,940 acres in Elmore that are part of the Atlas Timberlands. All this forestland is managed for timber and is available for public recreation, such as hunting.

“With the percent of forest-cover in Vermont going down, and more forestland being interrupted by roads and houses, VLT looked at the large blocks of core habitat and critical connecting corridors that we should try to protect,” explained Carl. “This area is part of an important forested wildlife corridor that connects habitat from the Adirondacks to the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada.”

(October 2017)