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from today's Stowe Reporter:

Town, Stowe Land Trust sign Adams Camp pacts

Group still needs $175,000 to buy easement
08/31/06
By Scott Monroe


The town government and Stowe Land Trust signed two key agreements this week
in connection with conserving 513 acres of forestland known as the Adams Camp.

In unanimous votes, the Stowe Select Board approved a joint conservation
easement and recreation-management plan with the land trust.

With those agreements all set, the land trust is now aiming to complete the
purchase of the property's development rights Sept. 20. But, as of
Wednesday, the group still needed $175,000 in donations, or 10 percent of
the total, to close the deal.

The purchase price of the property's development rights is $1.75 million.

"We're still relying on members and donors and we do have a grant award
pending that we hope to find out about sometime after Sept. 1," said Heather
Furman, executive director of Stowe Land Trust. "We're hopeful for good news
in the next couple of weeks."

Furman wouldn't disclose from whom the grant may come, but said it's for
$10,000.

The land trust has applied for another grant, Furman said, but there's not a
clear schedule of when that cash could be awarded.

As a fallback, the land trust does have the option of tapping into "bridge
funding" from private arrangements if all the cash isn't in hand before the
closing date.

The group will work to raise money in the next three weeks to avoid having
to use bridge funding, Furman said.

"We are going to close if it takes bridge funding to close it, but we still
need those (contribution) funds to make it happen," Furman said. "We won't
know until the last minute."

The land trust had planned to close on the deal Aug. 1, but pushed that date
back because it was still short of cash.

Stowe Land Trust wants to conserve the 513-acre Adams Camp property for
wildlife habitat and for the way it's being used now for recreation: hiking,
cross-country skiing, hunting and fishing.

The scenic forestland is home to the Stowe Derby trail, Catamount Trail and
smaller cross-country ski trails.

The main access points to the property are off Haul Road, Ranch Brook Road,
and from trails in the adjacent Mt. Mansfield State Forest.

A conservation easement would bar development on the property, which is
owned by the Trapp Family Lodge. Trapps disclosed in 2004 that it planned to
develop the property, and the land trust responded by negotiating a
conservation deal.

The property's development rights were appraised in 2004 as costing $2.9
million; the $1.75 million easement price tag is considered "bargain sale."
If the development rights were sold, Trapps would still own and manage the
property.

Cash for the easement purchase has come from several sources. Stowe
town-meeting voters approved a $450,000 municipal bond to help buy the
easement, and $600,000 came from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

Because the town government is forking over 25 percent of the
purchase-price, the select board needed to sign onto the property's
conservation easement and management plan.

After tinkering with some details, select board members said Monday the
agreements adequately protect the public's access and use of the forestland.

"I think it looks very good," said Heidi Scheuermann, chair of the select board.

Board members did ask for some fine-tuning of the documents, including a
clearer map of the property and its associated trails.

Selectman Larry Lackey raised most of the concerns, highlighting issues of
public access to the property. A top issue is the closure of trails during
inconvenient times, he said. Under the easement, Trapps still has the right
to shut down ski trails, for instance, if they need to be used for logging
or for public-safety reasons.

Lackey asked that greater notice be given - more than 30 days - so people
aren't scrambling at the last minute if the trail is closed or restricted in
some way.

"It doesn't sit well with me," Lackey said.

Also, Lackey said he wanted to make sure certain trails and roads are
publicized correctly with signs and gates, so someone won't be encouraged to
drive in areas where motor-vehicle use is restricted.

Furman said those issues will be managed properly, in consultation with the
land trust. Also, terms of the easement will be monitored annually at a
stewardship meeting between the land trust and Trapps.

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