Located on Route 2 near the Monitor Barns, Richmond’s new 428-acre town forest is a mile from the village center. The property has long been in the Andrews family as part of Gray Rocks Farm, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the past seven years, the Andrews siblings have worked with VLT to find the best outcome for their land. In 2013 they conserved farmland next to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) monitor barn, which they then sold to Maple Wind Farm. They wanted to see the upland portion of the property remain forested and offer recreation to the community.
“For almost 100 years the Andrews family has farmed this property,” explained Amy Wagner. “Our father, and my three sisters and I grew up on this farm. It is land we love and cherish. Conserving this beautiful property as a town forest for future generations to enjoy will be a fitting legacy of our parents, Everett and Mary Jo Andrews.”
VLT worked with the family and the community to create a plan for conservation. It also led the fundraising effort to help the town buy and permanently conserve the land.
There is a VAST trail and opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hunting, and birdwatching. The Richmond Trails Committee sees an opportunity to connect trails at VYCC to the Old Jericho Road Trail and Richmond Village. “The public planning process that’s underway has already heard from over 300 residents excited to conserve habitat, create outdoor classrooms, link Richmond’s trail networks, and preserve hunting lands,” said Guy Roberts, chair of the Town Forest Steering Committee.
The land is a key part of a much larger, mostly protected area of forest that connects Camel’s Hump State Park with Mount Mansfield State Forest. The groups that have been working to protect these upland forests have conserved 10,000 acres in the past 15 years.
The forest is also an important place for wildlife. “On a single walk through the property this winter, we saw signs of moose, bear, deer, fisher, bobcat, and other wildlife species,” said VLT’s Bob Heiser. Three streams flow through the forest to the Winooski River. There are also vernal pools, wetlands, and a dry oak forest, which is rare in Vermont.
The purchase and conservation of the town forest was made possible through federal, state, town, and private sources. In addition, the Andrews family generously sold the forest to the town for less than its full value. Many community members also donated to a management fund, which will help cover initial costs that may include improving a parking area, developing trails, or creating signage.
Funded by the federal Community Forest Program, VHCB, the Conservation Alliance, the Richmond Conservation Fund, and the Open Space Institute’s Community Forest Fund, which supports the creation and expansion of community forests in northern New England. (March 2018)
Photo by Olivia Wolf