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New England News

Campaign In Final Phase To Protect 163 Acres Of Urban Forest In Burlington

A coalition has announced the public phase of a campaign to conserve 163 acres of shoreline forest in the city of Burlington, Vermont.
The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition — a group that includes Parks Foundation of Burlington, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, the Episcopal Church in Vermont and the City of Burlington — has been working to preserve 163 acres of forested land in the city.  The urban wilderness is within walking distance of downtown, and the city’s bike path runs through the property.  It includes a peninsula jutting into Lake Champlain.

A silent campaign over the past two years has generated more than $780,000 toward a goal of $818,000 to conserve the land and complete trail improvements for public use.  Burlington Parks Foundation Chair John Bossange says the coalition is now asking the public to help.  “We are less than $50,000 from achieving that goal.  We now invite residents of Burlington and all the surrounding communities and across the lake in New York to help us close this final gap.  And here’s the wonderful news. We have a long time friend and a loyal supporter who will match us dollar for dollar to get us across the finish line.”

The Rock Point property has been owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont since 1865.  The public has been allowed on the land but Bishop Thomas Ely says they needed partners to continue stewardship and conservation of the property.  “On this side of the property on what they call Rock Point East we agreed that on that portion of the property because the trails between the Arms property and our property are connected that we could allow mountain biking to be on that section, trail biking.  On the west side no. The west side is for hiking. The west side is for walking. The west side is for praying, for experiencing the beauty of creation. But we are going to put nice bike pads off the bike path so that people can lock their bikes up and walk onto the property. So people can access this property by foot and by bike and get in here and enjoy it.”

Twenty-four rare and endangered species are found on the land, which has been described by the Lake Champlain Land Trust as “one of the most significant rare plant sites in Vermont.” Chris Boget is the Trust’s Executive Director.  “To have a collection of dozens of rare species probably indicates there’s rare insects and there’s rare butterflies and all sorts of other things you know.  So anytime you have a ecological hotspot, so called, you know an ecological place where there’s that much intact you can tell it’s been stewarded well over the years and you want to protect it.  It’s a great win for ecological protection.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger says the 163 acres are a spectacular addition to the city’s recreational resources.  “The forested area will remain very similar to what it is. We’re really talking about taking these existing not well developed trails and enhancing them, widening them, improving them. Also as part of these easements we’re ensuring that the access to these trails will be permanent.”

Easements held by the Lake Champlain Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will ensure permanent protection and public access.