The Trust for Public Land Options Land for Bethel Community Forest
The Trust for Public Land today announced an agreement to purchase a 978-acre forested parcel 2 miles from the center of Bethel to create a Community Forest. The project is a partnership with the Northern Forest Center and Mahoosuc Pathways, of Bethel, which will own the forestland on behalf of the community.
To acquire the land and fully activate it as a Community Forest, The Trust for Public Land and partners must raise $2 million in state, federal, and private funding. This total includes funds needed to buy the land from a private party, cover project costs, build new trails, install signage, and secure a management endowment. The Trust for Public Land has 18 months to exercise the option agreement and complete the purchase and protection of the property.
The planned forest is one of the last large tracts of undeveloped land in Bethel. Once protected, it will become a community recreation hub for all types of trail users as it provides close-to-home hiking, biking, and skiing opportunities. The new Community Forest will unlock public access to the adjacent town-owned Bingham Forest, and create a 3,500-acre block of conserved land right next to Sunday River Resort.
“Under the Community Forest model, the Bethel community will guide how the property is managed and will see direct benefits from the forest,” said Trust for Public Land project manager Betsy Cook. “Over the next 18 months, we will be working with the community, getting their ideas for how the forest should best serve the community.”
“Creating this forest is a natural extension of work Mahoosuc Pathways has been doing in the Bethel region since 2011,” said Gabe Perkins, the nonprofit’s Executive Director. “We’re so excited to have the opportunity to acquire this land for the community.”
Julie Renaud Evans of the Northern Forest Center said her organization has worked in partnership with the Trust for Public Land to help communities across Northern New England acquire and steward Community Forests for over 12 years. “We have seen again and again the economic and community benefits realized by towns from owning and managing forest land,” said Renaud Evans. “We look forward to working with the Bethel community to develop specific plans for the care and use of this important property.”
The first planning committee meeting will be held Wed., Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Gem Theater in Bethel. All are welcome.
For more information, contact:
The Trust for Public Land
207.772.7424 x3 (office)
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. tpl.org
The Northern Forest Center builds economic and community vitality while fostering sound forest stewardship across the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. northernforest.org
Mahoosuc Pathways mission is to develop, maintain, and promote multi-use recreational trails. Our work connects communities in the Mahoosuc region, supports healthy lifestyles and local economies, and fosters respect for landowners and our natural resources. mahoosucpathways.org