Virginia Stranahan Memorial Forest
Background and Overview
Marshfield, population 1650, has a strong connection with neighboring Plainfield, as the two towns share a school and residents often shop and recreate in the neighboring town. 3,800 acres of the 15,000-acre Groton State Forest are in Marshfield.
The Virginia Stranahan Memorial Town Forest, on the western edge of Marshfield, is a 620-acre forest with 500 acres of forest and 120 acres of mixed agricultural and pasture lands. The town acquired the land in 2007, buying it at a reduced price from the Stranahan Trust. From the time of Marshfield’s founding until the town’s acquisition, the parcel was a private farm and forest with logging operations, homesteads and agriculture. Many of the former logging roads are now used as trails. The town forest has 6 miles of hiking/mountain biking/skiing trails, and 1.3 miles of Vermont Area Snow Travelers (VAST) trail running through it. It features vernal pools, beaver ponds, rich hardwood forests, steams, wildflowers, and is a habitat for many species. The property also has an apple orchard and historic foundations and stone walls. Recently, a maple sugarer has begun tapping trees in the forest and Riders in Plainfield and Marshfield (RIPM) have constructed bike-optimized multi-use trails in the forest. Many of the bike trails follow the tap lines, and the sugarer is able to raise and lower the lines depending on the season to optimize forest accessibility.
The property’s conservation easement is co-held by the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The easement stresses the conservation of natural resources and limits development (including limiting the forest to two six-car parking lots). It also mandates that the town prepare a forest management plan, to be approved by the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The town has prepared such a plan and updates it on a 5-year cycle. The plan establishes the management structure of the forest: the Stranahan Stewardship Committee is responsible for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the forest; and the town Select Board makes all big-picture management decisions. Recent discussions about timber management have been controversial.
Needs and Assessment
Community members identified issues and needs associated with the forest, including:
1. Timber management impacts
2. Some trails, particularly old logging roads, have poor drainage
3. Balancing uses
4. Potential for overuse
5. Potential conflicts with private landowners
6. Confusion around forest vs private land boundary
7. Drainage and condition of Thompson road
8. Lack of data on forest use
9. Limited accessibility for elders and persons with disabilities
10. Sap lines through the forest
11. In need of additional funding sources
12. Need for collaborative community dialogue around forest use
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.
As a result of the planning process, the town generated a robust action plan matrix. The following pages are highlights from that table. They provide more detail on the strategies that are most likely to achieve the community’s vision for the forest and that have been identified by community members and the steering committee as top priorities. <each list item will link to its one pager>
- Existing trail review and redesign
- Improving access from Jake Martin Road
- Local Partnerships and Engagement
- Formal process for proposing and reviewing new trails and facilities
- Pause places
- Enhance homestead area
Ideas Worth Sharing