Barre Town Forest is dedicated
BARRE TOWN — Dozens gathered Sunday to dedicate 355 acres of land encompassing former granite quarries that have been preserved as the Barre Town Forest.
The effort to conserve the 355-acre forest was a partnership of local, state and federal organizations over several years, said Rodger Krussman, state director for The Trust for Public Land. It joins 13 other community forests the group has helped to preserve throughout New England, he said.
“Today we’re here to celebrate the permanent conservation and the creation of the Barre Town Forest,” Krussman said. “There is an incredible cultural and historic story to this land, that I’m sure a number of folks could tell and have lived through parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers. So, it’s an opportunity to protect that history and that culture and that knowledge of what used to be a booming industry in this part of the world.”
The land was once home to more than 70 independent granite quarries that helped Barre grow in the 19th century. The quarries gradually closed and filled with water. The surrounding vegetation, no longer disturbed by quarry workers and equipment, slowly regenerated and what was once barren land slowly evolved into to a re-forested recreational area.
The forest now offers numerous recreational activities including hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
“It’s a resource now that is protecting a local economy just as it did 150 years ago, just in a different way,” Krussman said.
The Trust for Public Land helped facilitate the town’s acquisition of five different parcels of land from the Rock of Ages Corp. and other private owners. The land is now protected from future development under a conservation easement held by the Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.
The $1.37 million for the project was raised from a variety of public and private sources. The U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest program provided the largest chunk at $400,000. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board contributed $310,000.
VHCB was pleased to contribute funding to the project because of the strong local support, according to Executive Director Gus Seelig.
“There’s a lot of things that we fight about these days in terms of what’s the best use of pubic funds, but you made a loud statement that protecting this resource was really important to you and you figured out how to do it,” Seelig said. “We did a very simple thing, which was we really took your tax dollars and returned them to the town of Barre.”
Additionally, $220,000 came from The Community Forest Fund established by the Open Space Conservancy and Jane’s Trust. Both the town of Barre and the Millstone Trails Association contributed $100,000.
Barre Town Select Board Chairman Jay Perkins said the town was proud to conserve the forest and urged the community to utilize the land.
“The Barre Town Select Board and Recreation Board hope many people will come out and walk, bike, snowshoe or play a round of disc golf and discover how the woods can make you feel much better,” he said. “After all, no one ever emerged from the woods after hunting, hiking or mountain biking in a worse mood than when they started.”
Steven Sinclair, director of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, said communities have utilized town forests in a number of ways over the last two centuries. They were initially used by local highway departments to harvest lumber for road projects. Later they provided a local revenue source through timber sales. Now, they are largely used for recreation, he said.
“Vermont has a rich history in public spaces and town forests,” he said. “This is just a new opportunity that prevails.”
The newest feature within the forest is a disc golf course that opened in July. Designer Al Rosa, a former state champion, said the land provided a unique place for the course.
“I started in March walking through and just climbing through every nook and cranny,” he said.
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