Nonprofit Reaches Agreement to Purchase Blueberry Lake (VT)

Warren, Vermont–Today, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization, announced that it has reached an agreement to purchase 368 acres around Blueberry Lake in Warren from landowner Jack Keir. TPL is purchasing the property in order to protect the land permanently as an addition to the Green Mountain National Forest. Thanks to the hard work of the Vermont Congressional delegation, Congress appropriated $3 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for additions to the Green Mountain National Forest this year. The U.S. Forest Service plans to use a portion of the appropriation-some $1.1 million-for the purchase of Blueberry Lake.

A mix of forestland, wetlands, and open meadow, the Blueberry Lake property lies adjacent to land owned by the Green Mountain National Forest and provides outstanding opportunities for recreation-including swimming, fishing, hiking, ice skating and cross-country skiing. It also includes important habitat for songbirds, black bear, and other wildlife. TPL plans to purchase the property this fall and will hold it until the Forest Service is ready to acquire it in 2001.

“This complex project has truly had nine lives, and we are delighted that it is now moving forward,” commented Whitney Hatch, regional director for the Trust for Public Land. “It never would have been possible without the leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy and the entire Congressional delegation in securing a federal appropriation for the project. In addition, the town of Warren contributed critical funding to purchase the dam on the property. Finally, nearby landowners James Sanford and Ellen Strauss held a number of rights to the Blueberry Lake property, which they released so that the land could be protected.”

“It’s taken a lot of persistence and tenacity by many parties over a long period of time for this complex land acquisition to come about,” said Green Mountain National Forest supervisor Paul Brewster. “Blueberry Lake and its surroundings will be a welcome addition to the Green Mountain National Forest because it will provide valuable public recreation access, important wildlife and wetland habitat, and continued open space for all to enjoy.”

With federal and local funding secured for the acquisition of the Blueberry Lake property, project partners are seeking private funds to cover the costs associated with completing the project, including legal work, engineering and consulting fees, property taxes, and interest costs. “Private funding will be critical to the success of this project,” explained Hatch. “The Trust for Public Land is grateful to the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership for making a lead contribution of $40,000 to the project. Over the next several months, we will be working to raise approximately $130,000 in additional private funds.”

The property is named for a scenic pond formed by an earthen dam on Mills Brook. The dam was built in the early 1980s as part of a residential and recreational plan for the property that was never realized, and Plunkton Road runs along the top of the dam for 530 feet. Last month, as part of the Blueberry Lake project, the Warren Selectboard voted to acquire the dam and four abutting acres for $200,000.

“The Town of Warren has made an extraordinary commitment in recognition of the unique recreational, scenic and habitat values of Blueberry Lake and the surrounding wilderness,” said Selectboard Chairman John Norton. “Our small town has invested a significant portion of its limited capital funds and has assumed full responsibility and liability for the dam that impounds the lake. It is our hope and vision that in making this commitment we will help create a legacy of beauty and health for our community into at least the seventh generation.”

“I think future generations will benefit tremendously from the foresight of all those who have worked so hard to make this project happen,” said Juli Beth Hoover, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District. “Blueberry Lake is a completely unique resource for the Mad River Valley.”

As part of the Blueberry Lake project, the Trust for Public Land has also agreed to purchase an additional 148 acres from Jack Keir as a potential addition to the Green Mountain National Forest. This additional land includes an 8-acre house lot and the 140-acre Prickly Mountain property, which is located just under a mile away overlooking Blueberry Lake.

“For many years, the public had access to Blueberry Lake for bathing, fishing, and non-motorized boating activities,” said landowner Jack Keir, who constructed the dam and lake 15 years ago with Leonard Robinson, a local developer. “The sale of the Blueberry Lake property to the Trust for Public Land has required compromise on all sides. I am very pleased that, because of our efforts today, residents of Warren and the Mad River Valley will be able to enjoy Blueberry Lake and the pristine land surrounding it for many generations to come.”

Donations to support the Blueberry Lake project can be sent to: The Trust for Public Land, Vermont Field Office, 33 Court Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. For more information about the project, please contact Julie Iffland at (802) 223-1373.

The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since then, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including approximately 8,000 acres in Vermont. For more information, visit their Web site at