UPDATE February 2022
The Ashley Community Forest Belongs to Sharon and Strafford
On Monday, January 31, 2022 the Alliance for Vermont Communities transferred ownership of the 256-acre Ashley Community Forest to the towns of Sharon and Strafford. The signing took place four years nearly to the day that a fledgling AVC board decided to purchase the land in an effort to block the out-of-scale New Vistas development plans.
From the start, the idea was to purchase the piece and give the land back to the residents and donors from the two towns as a natural resource for the region. On January 31, that desire became a reality.
With vision and widespread community support, the AVC board and many interested local folks persevered over the four years. We are grateful to the community members, selectboard and conservation commission members from the two towns for their willingness to continue working through a vast landscape of challenges. And to everyone who believed in the vision of forest connectivity and the value of open space for recreation, wildlife and water quality, a huge thank you. Special thanks to The Vermont Land Trust who shared their expertise all along the way and who took a mighty chance on the project which stretched out longer than anyone could have predicted.
The project is unique in that an interlocal agreement was forged between the towns of Sharon and Strafford to manage the Forest together. The arrangement will serve as a model for other rural towns to create conserved areas based on the land and not boundaries.
The future of the place and how it will evolve is now in the hands of you the people and municipal officials in the two towns. Let’s make the best of it.
Thank you once again for your support for putting Ashley Community Forest on the map.
The AVC board of directors –
Micki Colbeck, John Dumville, Judith Falk, Amy Frost, Jenn Hayslett, Michael Sacca, Erik Skarsten
You can find the Vermont Land Trust press release here.
Have a question? send it to email@example.com and we will get back to you.
What is the Ashley Community Forest?
The Ashley Community Forest is a beautiful 256-acre parcel that straddles the Sharon and Strafford boundary. The Alliance for Vermont Communities wishes to conserve and give the land to the residents of both towns to be used as a community resource for recreation, wildlife, historic preservation, timber, and scenic beauty for generations to come.
The Alliance purchased the Ashley parcel in mid-2018 with the help of the Vermont Land Trust and many local people to satisfy two goals: to help block NewVistas plans for an out-of-scale development and to establish a Community Forest. Within a month of this key purchase, David Hall, the developer, declared he was pulling out of the state and selling NewVistas’ 1500 acres.
AVC will establish an easement on the property with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to ensure that the Ashley Community Forest is protected and open for public access in perpetuity.
AVC is working in partnership with the Vermont Land Trust, The Upper Valley Land Trust, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. We are grateful for their guidance and support.
The Ashley Community Forest Will Offer:
- Recreation: Public access for hiking, skiing, hunting, picnicking and snowmobiling, which advances Sharon and Strafford town goals to promote forest and wildlife protection, preserve rural character, and expand recreational opportunities for four season use. The Ashley land borders the Manning Farm, which was recently conserved by the Upper Valley Land Trust, and is very near the Robinson Farm, recently conserved by the Vermont Land Trust. Together the parcels create 854 contiguous acres of conserved working farms and forest land. The Ashley Trails will directly link to trails on adjacent conserved land and perhaps later to neighboring towns.
- Working Woodlands: The Ashley Community Forest will continue to be managed for long-term timber production and support of local forestry-related jobs.
- Wildlife: With diverse forests, fields, wetlands and streams bisecting the north and south portions of the property, the Community Forest offers exceptional wildlife habitat.
- Historic Resources: Several well preserved 19th-century historic archaeological features showing evidence of the Forest’s agricultural past.
- Scenic Beauty: Ashley Community Forest has wonderful views, engaging trails and exquisite stone work.
- Education: Local community schools will be able to study and explore the wonders of the northern forest and contribute to the Community Forest stewardship through service projects.
It is planned that the Ashley Community Forest will be governed by a definitive management plan approved by the two towns, the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which has committed to providing a $150,000 grant for the property’s acquisition and conservation.
It is planned that the Ashley Community Forest Committee (ACFC) will include members appointed by the Selectboards and a member from AVC. It is also planned that the ACFC will have full responsibility for the management of funds, revenue and maintenance of the land and trails. In time, it is expected that timber revenue will make the community forest self-sustaining.
Ashley Community Forest Press
Valley News-November 3, 2020
Sharon, Strafford will decide ownership of Ashley Community Forest next year
By ANNA MERRIMAN Valley News Staff Writer
VT Digger February 22, 2022, This story by Claire Potter first appeared in the Valley News on Feb. 21.
For more information go to http://www.alliancevermont.org/ashley-community-forest or contact Michael Sacca, President, Alliance for Vermont Communities at firstname.lastname@example.org.