Battell Woods, Means Woods, and Chipman Hill: connecting to each other and community

Background and Overview

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 to trustees. A town ordinance protects plants in the forest blocks from removal without express permission of the 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 be 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.

Needs and Assessment

1. Strike the right balance between the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and development of recreational assets

2. Minimize user conflict through design of the trail system, education, and outreach.

3. Control invasive species throughout the Middlebury Area forest parcels by identifying and prioritizing areas of concern.

4. Manage the forest so as to conserve habitat for bird and wildlife habitat through initially identifying and mapping sensitive eco-regions

5. Protect the spring ephemeral wildflowers as well as other native or rare plant species initially through a rapid ecosystem assessment to inform future forest management strategies

6. Mitigate potential impacts to remaining quiet places through thoughtful planning and forest management

7. Promote the local use of the forest resource so as to increase the quality of life for residents and elevate Middlebury as a location to live, work, and start a business.

8. Enhance connectivity and promote the trail system as a valuable source for transportation in and around the Middlebury area.

9. Establish an understandable and verifiable pathway, through the appropriate administrative structures, to review and approve new trails and projects and manage existing trail networks in the forest.

10. Preserve the open space of the region and integrity of the town forest

11. Collaborate with Middlebury area Land Trust and Middlebury College to accomplish goals herein outlined for this community resource

12. Promote nature-based education and opportunities for learning about stewardship, history, and the forest.

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.

<input vision trees>


As a result of the planning process, the town generated a robust action plan matrix. From it, the planning commission selected several steps that seemed to achieve the greatest result with a manageable amount of effort. Those steps include: <each list item will link to the one-pager>

  • Existing trail assessment
  • Formalize organizational and decision-making structure
  • Signage and maps
  • Management plans
  • Access paths and connections
  • Leverage partnerships

Ideas Worth Sharing



Final Plan:

Middlebury's Town Forest Recreation Plan



BaseContextNatural Resources

Visioning Board


Town Contacts:

Ashar Nelson 

Carl Robinson