Moon over Mount Ellen in Fayston. Photo: Jeff Knight

The Mad River Valley Recreation District (MRVRD) has received a $225,000 grant toward the purchase of the Mad River Park fields in Waitsfield.

The grant was awarded by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation this week.

When notice was received this summer that the Mad River Park fields were for sale and no longer available for lease, four Valley-based organizations – the MRVRD, Youth Lacrosse, Mad River Soccer Association and Vermont Land Trust – joined forces to find a way to secure the park’s availability for future generations to recreate. Applying for the grant was part of their efforts.

“We’ve been nervously waiting for this announcement. We knew we were asking for a large sum to complete this purchase,” said Rebecca Baruzzi, MRVRD chair. “We are ecstatic that the grant committee understood the need and urgency.”

The grant application was extensive and was completed by Baruzzi, MRVRD; Anne Greshin, Mad River Valley Soccer Association; and Liza Walker, Vermont Land Trust.

The grant award is $225,000 and the request was $275,000. The park has been appraised at $725,000 and is for sale for $550,000. Private fundraising efforts will be increased to make up the difference. The MRVRD has asked for select board support from Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown in the amount of $31,250 from each town. The four town select boards have pledged to support MRVRD ownership of the Mad River Park fields and have included their contributions in their Town Meeting budgets, ballots and warnings.

The land in Mad River Park is a 10-acre parcel that currently holds six playing fields. When the land is purchased, it will be outfitted with an 80-car parking lot accessed from Airport Road. The park has been visited by Valley soccer players, visiting teams, coaches, referees and spectators for more than 10 years. The Mad River Valley Youth Lacrosse program was established in 2008. Between the two there are an estimated 10,000 player visits annually. In 2016, there were over 400 soccer players and 120 lacrosse players from local families. Even with the use of additional elementary school and town-owned fields, Mad River Park is at capacity during soccer and lacrosse seasons.