- Connecting multiple town forest properties
Middlebury has six town forests, the two most popular being Chipman Hill and Battell Woods. Middlebury is interested in exploring the connectivity between these individual parcels to create regional recreation opportunities and a stronger connection to downtown. The goal of this planning effort is to address current conflicts among users, improve existing infrastructure, access, and user experience while protecting natural resources.
Middlebury (population 8,530) focused on three of its six town forest blocks: Battell Woods, Chipman Hill, and Means Woods. These three blocks are the most heavily used and are connected by the Trail Around Middlebury. The town is interested in further developing the connectivity between these individual parcels to create regional recreation opportunities and a stronger connection to downtown, all of which are within a mile of the village green.
Battell Woods is a 95-acre block with a 2.63-mile network of trails open to all non-motorized uses. It is very popular with mountain bikers. It is primarily an old hardwood forest.
Chipman Hill is a 132-acre block. It is very steep and was once the college ski hill. Today, it is a dense forest featuring roughly five miles of trails that are popular with hikers and mountain bikers (who also build and maintain the trails). It has multiple scenic vistas that are popular for picnics.
Means Woods is a 29.4-acre preserved woodland between Battell Woods and Chipman Hill that features a half-mile hiking trail. It adjoins Battell Woods and is separated by 1000 feet of private property from Chipman Hill.
Each forest block in the Middlebury Town Forest system is governed by a Board of Trustees. There is no specific management plan either for the parcels individually or the system as a whole, but the town has expressed interest in creating such a plan.
Battell Woods and Chipman Hill were bequeathed to the town in 1915 by the will in Joseph Battell. Both forest blocks are managed by the Battell Partnership Trust. Means Woods was donated in 1969, under a covenant that it is kept as a green space with its woodland character preserved in conjunction with Battell Woods and Chipman Hill. It is managed by the Means Woods Trustees.
The word trees below demonstrate what the community answered when they were asked what word or phrase best describes their existing or desired future experience with the town forest – the size of the word corresponds to the number of times it appeared in the responses.
Strategies to Implement Vision
As a result of the planning process, the town generated a robust action plan matrix. Action steps include:
- Existing trail assessment
- Formalize organizational and decision-making structure
- Signage and maps
- Management plans
- Access paths and connections
- Leverage partnerships
Words of Wisdom
“We view the creation of improved recreational opportunities in our town as a benefit not just to the Middlebury population but also as a highly effective way to attract outside users outside our community, thereby providing an important boost for our local economy.” Brian Carpenter, Selectboard Chair