RICHMOND, VT (March 27, 2018) – Thanks to support from the Open Space Institute (OSI), the town of Richmond, 15 miles outside of Burlington, is a proud owner of New England’s newest Community Forest. Completed by the Vermont Land Trust and community members, the project will enhance local recreation opportunities while protecting plant and animal habitat.
Supported with a grant from OSI’s Community Forest Fund, which helps create and expand community forests in northern New England, the 428-acre forest is located just a mile from the village center. The land will provide opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hunting, and birdwatching, while protecting a tributary of Lake Champlain and vernal pools, wetlands, a dry oak forest — rare in Vermont — that are important as a haven for wildlife.
The Richmond Community Forest also received funding from the US Forest Service Community Forest Program. Future funding for the program was doubled to $4 million in the Federal Omnibus Bill, passed March 2018. The spending package also increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $425 million – a $25 million increase – and includes additional funds for a wildlife conservation account.
“OSI is proud to support the creation of the Richmond Community Forest. This conservation project will not only strengthen the local economy, but will also protect wildlife habitat and improve recreational access,” said Jennifer Melville, who oversees OSI’s Community Forest Program. “We congratulate the citizens of Richmond and Vermont Land Trust for their vision and determination to invest in their own Community Forest for current and future generations.”
“This land will give residents and visitors an easily accessible place to get into the forest,” said Bob Heiser of the Vermont Land Trust. “The land 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 using the land.”
The new community forest 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. Local conservation groups working to protect these upland forests —known as the Chittenden County Uplands — have conserved 10,000 acres in the past 15 years.
Before its creation as a Community Forest, the Andrews family previously owned the land 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 the Vermont Land Trust to find the best outcome for their historic farm and forestland. The Land Trust then worked with the community to create a plan for conservation, and led the fundraising effort to help the town buy and permanently conserve the land.
“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.”
Looking ahead, the community will develop a management plan through a public process.
“Richmond's new town forest offers us a great place for year-round activities in nature for people of all ages and interests,” said Guy Roberts, Chair of the Town Forest Steering Committee.
“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. This amazing outpouring of public input and interest is shaping the management plan, so we'll get the most out of this beautiful forestland for decades to come,” Roberts said.
Many community members also contributed toward a town forest management fund, which will help the town cover initial costs of management that may include improving a parking area, developing trails, or creating signage.