Andrews Community Forest: what are we going to do with all this land?
Background and Overview
The Andrews Community Forest is a 428-acre, largely forested parcel just outside Richmond village (population 4,115). The property is a diverse forestland with two small meadows. It was once a working farm with pasture lands and logging operations. The farm, including barns on an adjacent property, is listed on the national register of historic places.
The forest is part of the Chittenden county Uplands Conservation Project and is part of a 6,000 acre contiguous forestland, adjoining the 72,000 acre Mt Mansfield Forest Block. The VT Department of Fish and Wildlife has ranked the parcel in the top 3% of wildlife habitats in the state and it is in Vermont’s only “globally important bird area.” It contains several headwater streams that flow into the Winooski river and then on to Lake Champlain. The property also includes a small beaver pond and wetlands and at least two vernal pools. The quality of these water resources is directly related to the health of the surrounding forest.
Farming operations began on the property in about 1800. In 1923, the Andrews family took ownership, actively managing the timber in the forest. They also allowed hunting and other public recreational use on their land. In 2018 the Town of Richmond, with assistance of the Vermont Land Trust, purchased the parcel from the family to create a new community forest. Simultaneous with the sale, a conservation easement was conveyed to both the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to protect the property’s natural resources and ensure public access in perpetuity.
The conservation easement also requires a management plan for the forest. The Community Forest Steering Committee, working with SE Group and Arrowwood Environmental, developed a forest management plan in the fall of 2018. The plan sets the allowed uses, management objectives, and management actions for the forest. Currently, a Vermont Area Snow Travelers (VAST) trail and old forest management roads are the primary trail system, though a new, sustainably built trail system is planned for the forest. A Vermont Electric Company powerline run across the property. Maple Wind Farm leases 8 acres of the community forest to graze cattle. The farm and community forest are interested in negotiating a long-term lease to continue this arrangement. and
Needs and Assessment
Through the public engagement process, community members identified the issues and needs associated with the forest to be resolved in this planning process.
1. Recently acquired property
2. New forest with many needs, such as maps, inventories, assessments, etc
3. Limited use
4. Traditional hunting ground
5. Invasive species
6. Need to create a parking lot
7. Lots of logging roads in variable conditions
8. Powerline through property
9. Steep topography
10. Need for walking/biking route from the town center
11. Part of the property in agricultural use and adjacent agricultural land
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.
[LS1]This one didn’t have any one-pagers… talk about management balance instead?
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
Ideas Worth Sharing