REGION – The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association this month has launched a public fundraising campaign to help raise the final funds needed to buy and protect 615 acres of unfragmented forest in Brookline, Athens, and Townshend.
The property is home to two undeveloped upland ponds, 13 vernal pools, significant habitat for bear and moose, a heron rookery, beaver colonies and native brook trout, among other species. Wood turtles, a species of conservation concern in Vermont, also live on the parcel, and the wetlands and vernal pools support the endangered Northern bulrush and other uncommon plants.
With a summit of 1,735 feet, the parcel is the highest elevation headwaters for the Grassy Brook watershed, which feeds into the West River. Located off Grassy Brook Road, the parcel is contiguous to the Pinnacle’s Townline Trail access point and is highly visible looking west from the Pinnacle summit in the town of Westminster.
“Protecting this property has been a priority for the Pinnacle Association for years,” said Libby Mills, a longtime WHPA board member from Westminster West. “It is known for its exceptional wildlife habitat and ecological diversity, and because it connects to other conserved properties, the land will remain an important wildlife corridor in Windham County.”
The parcel has a potential house lot and a road that has been used for some logging, and the WHPA is concerned about future development activity. The WHPA plans to place a conservation easement on the property to protect the land and its secluded ponds from logging and development and preserve wildlife habitat. It also will work with area stakeholders to maintain some recreational access to the land.
The parcel was owned by the late Jim Massey of Westminster West and was inherited by two of his nephews in Ohio. The WHPA has a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy the property for $500,000, which includes a discount from the appraised value as the nephews want to honor their uncle’s wish that the land be conserved.
The WHPA’s public fundraising campaign, just now opening, will provide money to complete the purchase of the land – and also to help with costs of conserving it down the line. In total, the project budget is $700,000.
The WHPA, a nonprofit run by volunteer trustees, is also working with the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and the Vermont Land Trust on the project. Founded 29 years ago, the WHPA has already preserved 2,100 acres in Rockingham, Athens, Grafton, Brookline, and Westminster and maintains a 26-mile hiking trail system and wildlife sanctuary and allows hunting on almost all of its land. The WHPA also pays taxes on its property.
For more information or to donate, go to www.windmillhillpinnacle.org. Donations may also be sent by check to WHPA, P.O. Box 584, Saxtons River, VT 05154.