In Vermont, program boosts town forests

(Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department photo)

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. — Town forests in 10 Vermont communities are going to be getting a boost through a program that could eventually be expanded to other municipally owned forests across the state.

The Vermont Town Forest Recreation Planning Community Assistance Program is intended to support strong stewardship and usage plans for town forests.

Town forests in 168 Vermont communities have a total of about 67,000 acres of land.

“These areas can have a huge impact on the local economy, and community leaders are aware of that,” said Kate Forrer, of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program.

But with use comes increased pressure. There is a need for basic infrastructure like parking and toilet facilities, she said.

Hartford, Bradford and Weathersfield are among the towns that will receive up to $10,000 in technical planning funds, the Valley News reported.

In Weathersfield, there is a 310-acre parcel that was donated to the town seven years ago, but remains underutilized, town officials said.

“There are some old roads and trails within it, but the area itself is fairly land-locked at the moment,” said town manager Ed Morris. “There is virtually no access to it from town, so we’d like to get a strategy going about what to do with it and how to use it.”

Hartford has 565 acres of town forest. Hartford planner Matt Osborn says mountain biking has increased in recent years.

“We need to determine where bridge work or other infrastructure improvements should take place, but do it in a way that doesn’t impact the resource more than necessary,” Osborn said.

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