Huntington Community Forest Provides Increased Access to Outdoor Recreation and New Outdoor Classroom
Today, The Trust for Public Land, along with the Town of Huntington and the Vermont Land Trust, announced the creation and protection of the 245-acre Huntington Community Forest. The property is located in Huntington Center, immediately adjacent to the Brewster-Pierce Memorial School and, among other benefits, offers students an outdoor classroom to learn, play, and connect with nature.
“The completion of the Huntington Community Forest opens the door for children of Brewster-Pierce Memorial School, and the surrounding community of Huntington, to enjoy a safe and permanently protected outdoor space,” said Shelby Semmes, Northern New England Area Director for The Trust for Public Land. “Whether it’s used as an outdoor classroom or a spot to just enjoy a lunch time walk, this lovely place will offer more close-to-home recreation opportunities that will benefit the entire community for generations to come.”
Brewster-Pierce Memorial School is a leader in Vermont in outdoor education, as one of the first schools in the state where all students are given the opportunity to go out into nature during the school day. Permanent protection of this outdoor natural area for students in the community is so vital, especially when data shows children today are spending 50% less time outside than kids in 1980. According to the nonprofit group, Come Alive Outside, despite regular activity being an important part of physical and mental health, only 24% of today’s kids are getting the recommended daily dose.
Huntington’s Town Plan has long called for balancing municipal conservation efforts with the need for increased, easily accessible, recreational opportunities throughout all seasons for residents of all ages and capabilities. In 2018, the Huntington community participated in a robust year-long planning process, and identified the acquisition of a new town forest, with good public access, as one of six top priorities for the Town. The community also concluded there was a lack of public trails near the village centers, limited access to the Huntington River, and limited opportunities for forest recreation and education in town.
“The location of this property, which interconnects with our elementary school and the Town’s recreation field, couldn’t be more perfect,” said Dori Barton, Chair of the Huntington Select Board. “The wetlands, open meadows and agricultural fields, and areas of young, middle and mature forest provide remarkable educational and recreational opportunities. We look forward to establishing the final Stewardship Plan that will provide on-going guidance and oversight of this incredible community resource.”
The Trust for Public Land worked with the community to secure funds from private and grassroots entities, as well as multiple federal and state sources to deliver the property to the town. The project was funded by the federal Community Forest and Open Space Fund, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the Huntington Conservation Fund, Lintilhac Foundation, Fieldstone Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, Oakland Foundation, RiseVT and many private donors. A significant grant from L.L. Bean’s Community Award supported expansion of the outdoor education program at Brewster Pierce, and improvements in infrastructure (trails, bridges, and signage) on the property.
Notably, it’s the first municipal land acquisition to benefit from the Vermont Clean Water State Revolving Fund’s (CWSRF) Interim Financing, which provided $309,000 to protect natural infrastructure–the wetlands, riparian areas and headwater streams that directly benefit water quality and flood resiliency in the Winooski Basin and Lake Champlain. CWSRF can provide funding to towns or non-profits for a variety of natural infrastructure projects.
“The Huntington Community Forest project shows how communities can use the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to conserve land in a way that benefits water quality and our quality of life through opportunities for outdoor recreation and education,” said Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Peter Walke. “We hope to see more towns follow Huntington’s lead in using CWSRF to fund natural infrastructure projects in their communities.”
The Trust for Public Land was also able to negotiate a deal that divided off a developable parcel within the town center for two new residential houses and expansion of a local business, supporting the tax base and supporting development in the town center. The business owners, Krin Barberi and Dan Carhart, generously donated 2.8 acres along the Huntington River that is adjacent to the Town’s recreation field to become part of the Community Forest, protecting water quality and providing the opportunity for a future riverside trail.
“This land has already been giving folks of all ages opportunities to get outside and to explore and learn about the natural world, and now the community has ensured that will always be true,” said Bob Heiser, Vermont Land Trust’s Champlain Valley Regional Director.
While Huntington hosts two of the major trails to ascend Camel’s Hump, the third highest peak in Vermont, the community was interested in creating new public land that would be accessible to all. This community forest provides close-to-home access to low-angle hiking that can be enjoyed by anyone and the land’s rich and diverse habitat is also home to black bear, fisher, otter, and bobcat. The property’s conservation values will be permanently secured by a conservation easement co-held by Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.
“I congratulate the Town of Huntington, The Trust for Public Land and all of the other partners for completing such an important project,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “I was so pleased to help support the grant of $385,000 from the federal Community Forest Program which I helped create in the Farm Bill, and I’m proud that the Huntington project was the second-highest ranked in the United States.”
“We must make it a priority to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our natural lands for generations to come,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “The new Huntington Community Forest is a huge step in the right direction and I am very proud that federal funding – along with the hard work of partners like The Trust for Public Land – helped make this project a reality. And at a time when our young people have struggled so much as a result of the pandemic, I am particularly pleased that the forest will provide ample outdoor education opportunities for Vermont students.”
“Vermont’s natural beauty is unparalleled. This money will go a long way to offer recreational opportunities to Vermonters of all ages, safeguard natural habitats in Huntington and provide another beautiful outdoor space in this town,” said Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT). “This is great news for local recreation and I thank The Trust for Public Land and the local leaders involved in this project for their extraordinary work to protect our outdoors now and in the future. I will continue to lead efforts in the House to secure funding for the Community Forest program.”
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
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