I serve as a member of Fayston’s Boyce Hill steering committee. This amazing team of volunteers has been developing a management plan for the property for about two years, and we will soon be able to share a draft for public input. We presented a progress report to the Fayston Select Board on November 9 and followed that up with a site visit on November 13, a cool, gray Sunday morning. Being there on the land with two of the three select board members who will decide what will happen there gave us the opportunity to share the reasons for our recommendations and to hear how they see the opportunity.
While words, PowerPoints and maps are how we’ll document the management plan, these is no substitute for bushwhacking to see the property’s actual vernal pools, special habitats, historic structures, and potential trail locations. Being there together allowed us to experience the views from up, down and across the landscape and imagine more directly how they might be affected by various vegetation management decisions.
The site visit and our ongoing discussions with the select board have helped me appreciate how well Fayston’s select board has supported our planning efforts. We know that it has taken way longer than anyone would have hoped. My take on the process thus far? It’s impossible to please everyone. The process of making impactful decisions is messy. Loud voices, egos, personalities, and differing values, experiences and capabilities make consensus seem impossible.
But that has not been the case on the steering committee. We initially brought a mix of differing views to the work, a mix that mirrors the full range of public opinion we’ve encountered. Our shared love of the land and its history provided more than enough encouragement for each of us to stay open to learning and expanding our understanding of the complex web of competing values that influence what the “optimum” solution may be. As a result, we have been able to compromise and reach consensus on what to recommend.
It’s easy to form a strong opinion from a single perspective. People who grew up with the views want the views to be maintained. People who understand the importance of wildlife linkage habitat want reforestation. Equestrians want trail access. Dog walkers want to let their pets run free. Skiers want blackberries to be cut. Abutting landowners want limited traffic and respect for their privacy. Outdoor entrepreneurs want commercial use. Taxpayers want low maintenance costs. Climate activists want carbon-neutral management techniques. Everyone wants to feel like it’s their special, secret place.
Oversimplified, the question we’re seeking to answer is “How do we preserve Boyce Hill’s amazing open views while allowing the land to support soil, water, wildlife and recreation values for generations to come?” The steering committee is doing our best to come up with a management plan that honors multiple perspectives. It will probably leave everyone just a bit disappointed. No plan could possibly address all of these disparate perspectives! Last week’s Valley Reporter editorial emphasized the tension inherent in the presence of these competing values. I would like to offer a reminder that the steering committee has come to consensus after hearing from the public, subject matter experts, and recognizing our individual opinions are just that – individual opinions. If we can come to consensus, we’re expecting that our community can do it, too. The recent select board field visit was an encouraging indication that their and our opinions about what’s “best” for Boyce Hill are able to shift in the presence of compelling evidence and mutual respect. Based on what we discussed, we’re turning our attention to finishing up the draft that we’ll present to our neighbors in early 2023.
Colgan lives in Fayston.