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Park planning for the next 25 years

BRATTLEBORO—The Long Range Management Plan (LRMP) of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) looks at the next 25 years for the four parks within the FPR’s Brattleboro Management Unit (BMU).

Combined, the parks total 540.65 acres and include Sweet Pond in Guilford, Dutton Pines in Dummerston, Molly Stark in Wilmington, and Fort Dummer in Brattleboro, Guilford, and Vernon.

“We recognize that state land is an important public resource, and we’d like your comments,” said state forester Rick White.

To prepare the plan, FPR staff conducted extensive mapping of the parks, researched legal constraints like deeds, and inventoried wildlife and plants. The plan also details the department’s long-term management strategies, such as adding electric hook-ups for RVs at Fort Dummer, and carrying out timber thinning at Dutton Pines to promote healthy seedling growth.

The 25 people at a March 24 meeting to discuss the LRMP raised questions about the department’s plans to transfer ownership of Dutton Pines from the park system.

Morton said that FPR considers Dutton Pines “surplus property” and would like to transfer ownership so the department doesn’t expend time or funds on the 13-acre parcel. However, he said that the department wants the area to remain open to the public.

Morton added that he would like to see the property transferred “in house” within the Agency of Natural Resources. The department has no plans to transfer the land to anyone who wants to develop it or “turn it into a gravel pit.”

Also on the proposed to-do list for Dutton Pines are installing a gate, gravelling the road leading to a nearby mobile home park’s water wells, and moving the property’s Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed buildings to another park.

In 1937, according to the BMU’s LRMP, the department acquired the land for Dutton Pines from Edith Dutton, for a park in memory of her father, Myron Dutton, who had grown pine trees on the property.

The parcel sits on Route 5 in Dummerston and received copious use from travelers in the 1950s. Prior to the arrival of Interstate 91, the park served as a picnic and rest stop for tourists heading north on Route 5, as well as for local residents.

The Interstate opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Route 5 was no longer the main north-south route for travelers, the number of visitors dwindled throughout the 1970s, and the FPR discontinued the park in 1983.

FPR has minor improvements and routine maintenance planned, on an as-needed basis, for the 168-acre Molly Stark State Park. Timber management, according to Morton, is planned for approximately 130 acres. Morton said that he has to work out access to the timber without coming into conflict with hiking trails or recreation areas.

Another consideration for Molly Stark is its visibility to Route 9, said Morton.

Wilmington has prioritized maintaining town aesthetics in its town plan, said Morton, and so any work FPR does in view of Route 9 will also have to look pleasing to the eye.

Plans for Fort Dummer, the largest parcel in the district at 259.55 acres, include upgrading infrastructure and adding plantings to improve privacy between campsites.

Fort Dummer also hosts 40 acres of a dry oak forest, rare for the state. Unfortunately, the park also has a number of invasive plants, and the department is keeping a lookout for a destructive invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #94 (Wednesday, March 30, 2011).

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