The Waitsfield Conservation Commission wants to share information with the public and hear feedback on the town’s chance to add 110 acres to the Scrag Forest.
The commission is holding a public forum on July 28 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the Waitsfield Elementary School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and discussion and the presentation begins at 7 p.m.
For more than two decades the public has had access to the town’s Scrag Forest via an easement created by the Kisiel subdivision on Bowen Road. The forest is landlocked and the 110 acres that the town can add to the parcel will permanently improve access for public recreation and forestry. Adding the land to the Scrag Forest would keep intact a large tract of forestland with important wildlife habitat for deep woods species and protect high-elevation headwaters.
The town has received a $256,650 grant from the United States Forest Service and has a one-time opportunity to add 110 acres to its Scrag Town Forest by buying an adjacent parcel and permanently conserving it with the Vermont Land Trust.
This 110-acre parcel is owned by Howard and Judy Saffan and is at the end of Bowen Road. The parcel is part of the Kisiel subdivision which created three lots along and at the end of Bowen Road. The entire parcel was purchased by the Saffans last year. They have combined lots one and two where they are building a home. The third lot is the one that the town will be purchasing.
The town previously obtained limited access rights on the Saffan land through the 2008 Kisiel subdivision, including a small parking area at the end of Bowen Road, a mile-long footpath to the town lands and a right of way for logging access by the town.
The Saffans have offered the town a time-bound opportunity to buy 110 acres, including a developable house site and surrounding acreage, for $450,000. The Saffans also have offered to contribute $25,000 toward building a new parking area and trailhead if the town acquires the land.
The town and land trust also applied for a $150,000 Vermont Housing and Conservation Board grant for the project but did not receive funding in the cycle. The town and the land trust will reapply and anticipate funding in the next cycle of up to $150,000. The town of Waitsfield will contribute $40,000 toward the project from its Restroom, Recreation and Conservation Reserve Fund.
Private fundraising will also be necessary to buy the property and support the town’s stewardship of it, including the creation of an enhanced trail network for public use.
The Scrag Forest, which currently encompasses 640 acres and a mile of the Northfield Mountain ridgeline, was first established in 1991 with a gift of 360 acres. Over the years, the forest expanded with one purchase of land and two additional donations to the town. With the addition of the Saffan parcel, the Scrag Forest would include a total of 750 acres.