This post was written by Mollie Flanigan, GMC Land Stewardship Coordinator.
This fall marks a significant landmark for the Green Mountain Club: thirty years since the first land protection project to conserve the Long Trail System was completed! GMC launched the Long Trail Protection Campaign in 1986 after noticing that the pace of serious threats to the trail seemed to be increasing and that land protection was needed in order to ensure the LT remained a contiguous “footpath in the wilderness” in perpetuity. One year later, the Campaign bore fruit, thanks to strong public and private partnerships, especially with the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. As the November 1987 edition of the Long Trail News proclaimed:
FIRST LONG TRAIL PROPERTIES PROTECTED …
VERMONT CHAPTER OF NATURE CONSERVANCY PLAYS VITAL ROLE
The GMC has made its first purchases of Long Trail properties, thanks to the assistance of the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy … A 117-acre parcel of land in Jay has been purchased, which protects the northernmost segment of the Long Trail..
The Reindeau property is a 117-acre tract of land in the town of Jay. The northernmost 1.2 miles of the Long Trail parallel its western boundary, for the most part on the property. In August the Riendeaus, who live in Connecticut, contacted the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to find out if there was any interest in buying this piece of land. The Nature Conservancy, in turn, contacted the Club to find out if the property were vital to the Long Trail.
Upon further investigation by Marc Desmeules of TNC and GMC Executive Director Harry Peet, not only did they confirm that the property contained the northern-most part of the Trail, they also discovered that other unknown parties had been expressing a serious interest in it, supposedly for the purpose of re-opening the old Space Research complex. Rumors abounded in the town of Jay, including one that the land would become part of a target range for testing artillery pieces – which, if true, would certainly make for some interesting hiking!
The GMC Executive Advisory Council decided this situation required immediate action, and it authorized the purchase of the property, if possible.
At this juncture the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy was extremely helpful. TNC acted immediately on the Club’s behalf and offered to buy the land from the Riendeaus for $20,000. This action was taken with the understanding GMC would become the eventual owners and replay the purchase price by the end of the calendar year. What was hoped would be a simple purchase dragged on for some time as the Riendeaus first indicated acceptance of the Nature Conservancy offer and then failed to sign the necessary papers. It was apparent the wheels of trail protection would not always, if ever, run smoothly. Finally, the Riendeaus did accept the offer. By the time this issue of The Long Trail News is published the Reindeau property will be in GMC ownership, thereby making it the first property acquired by the GMC in its Long Trail Protection effort.
Since the successful protection of the Riendeau Tract thirty years ago, GMC has worked on over 90 land protection projects, conserved more than 25,000 acres of land, and permanently protected all but 6.5 miles of the Long Trail. The work has been made possible by the strong support of GMC’s members, especially those who joined the 265-Mile Club; and on-going partnerships with the State of Vermont, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and land conservation organizations.
The Long Trail Protection Campaign continues, aiming to protect the last few miles of the Long Trail System and widen the conserved corridor to enhance the recreation and wildlife habitat along the Green Mountains. GMC has always, and will continue to, work with landowners who are willing and interested in selling or conserving their properties. As a result, the campaign will take time, but with the continued support of private and public partners, GMC is looking forward to the next thirty years of protecting the Green Mountains.