Waitsfield acquired a 110-acre addition to its Scrag Mountain Town Forest in the summer of 2017. This property, which has become known as the Scrag Gateway Parcel,” now hosts a parking area, trailhead kiosk and footpaths for public use, along with a mix of forest stands, wildlife habitat, clean mountain streams and other natural assets.
Since the town’s acquisition of the Gateway Parcel, the Waitsfield Conservation Commission (WCC) has been gathering information about its natural resources to help inform thoughtful long-term stewardship of the property. With the help of outside experts, the WCC has completed several important baseline assessments:
- An inventory of natural communities (i.e., combinations of native plants and animals that are commonly found together in particular ecological settings on the landscape), conducted by Chelsea Clarke, a recent alumna of the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program.
- An assessment of habitat conditions for native forest birds, conducted pro bono for the town by Steve Hagenbuch of Audubon Vermont.
- An inventory of forest stands, conducted by Michael Brown of Birdseye Forestry in Moretown.
- A forest stewardship plan that provides recommendations for future forest management and timber harvests, prepared pro bono for the town by former Washington County forester Dan Singleton.
The draft amendment is not a stand-alone document but rather describes changes needed to the 2012 Management Plan in light of the addition of the Gateway Parcel and other things that have happened on the town forest over the past eight years. Therefore, interested reviewers will need to have the 2012 plan handy as they look at the draft amendment. The 2012 plan is available on the town’s website at http://waitsfieldvt.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Waitsfield_Scrag_Forest_Management_Plan_2012Dec.pdf or in hard copy at the town office.
The WCC will consider public input on the management plan amendment at its July 20 meeting and will finalize the amendment then or soon after for submittal to the select board for final review and approval.
Once the amendment is approved, the WCC will move forward on expanding the trail network on the Gateway Parcel and other parts of the Scrag Mountain Town Forest. This will include engaging a trail consultant to provide a professional assessment of the best opportunities for new trails that fit with the natural resources and character of the town lands, as well as work on the ground to improve trail-based opportunities. Keep an eye out in the coming months for announcements of opportunities for public input on trail development, or feel free to contact Phil Huffman and Leo Laferriere at the email addresses provided above.