Athens, Westminster, and Rockingham — The Vermont Land Trust and Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association (WHPA) announced today that 70 more acres in Athens, Westminster, and Rockingham were added to the Windmill Ridge Nature Reserve.

The newly protected land was originally two parcels—WHPA purchased the Bemis parcel in 2014 and the Brelsford parcel as part of this transaction. This land was an un-conserved gap in the otherwise protected Reserve. With the addition of the new parcels, the Windmill Ridge Nature Reserve now encompasses 1,934 acres in Athens, Brookline, Putney, Westminster, Rockingham, and Grafton.

Now that these 70 acres have been permanently through a conservation easement (a legal document that limits development and subdivision), public access is ensured to the entire 24-mile trail system. The conservation of this forestland will protect wildlife habitat and public recreation. It also protects an interesting historical site: the Hazen Farm homestead site (circa 1870). This is an intact cultural feature of a late-19th century Vermont hill farm. The Bemis Hill Trail runs along the southern and western boundary, and connects to other WHPA trails. These trails are open for non-motorized public use.

WHPA Land Acquisitions Committee Chair, Paul Wilson stated, “The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association is excited to conserve more acres of crucial wildlife habitat and better protect the ridgeline trail from future development. We are incredibly appreciative that so many people are willing to work with us to help protect this important land and to ensure that these lands remain accessible for hiking, hunting, and observing nature. We thank the Brelsford family for recognizing the importance of conserving this property, our donors and supporters, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and the Vermont Land Trust for working with us on this and so many other projects which benefit all Vermonters.”

A grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) helped to support this conservation project. These lands will be owned and managed by WHPA, with a conservation easement co-held by Vermont Land Trust and VHCB. The Vermont Land Trust will perform stewardship duties by checking in on the property annually.