DORSET -- The town of Dorset has been awarded $263,000 to purchase 201 acres that will ensure public access to Owl’s Head Peak.
Town Manager Robert Gaiotti said the U.S. Forest Service grant will be combined with a $135,000 grant awarded by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Local matches are required for both grants, he said. The Forest Service will require a 50 percent match, while the VHCB seeks a match of one third. This means local fundraising efforts will have to begin this summer, he said.
The property is currently owned by Dworkin and Shalom LLC, Gaiotti said. The town has an option on the property, and already owns about 30 acres that make up Owl’s Head Peak itself.
There are already hiking trails on the land leading up to the peak, he said. If the town owns this property it can manage it, ensure access, and possibly pay for periodic maintenance using revenue from light timber harvest.
Gaiotti said talks about buying the land have been going on for at least 30 years. Many in town have wanted the purchase to happen, but the town’s high property values have made it a challenge to come up with financing. With grant funding, it is now possible, Gaiotti said.
"We hope to start the local fundraising campaign immediately," he said.
He said the land hits nearly all the reasons one might want to preserve it. It even has historic value, being the home of the Gettysburg Quarry, which operated in the 1800s.
The acreage is also adjacent to Nature Conservancy land, which contains rare plants and organisms.
Dorset was not the only recipient of grant money from the U.S. Forest Service. On Friday the Forest Service announced $2.3 million had been awarded to eight entities to preserve land, including $150,000 for 350 acres in the Rensselear Plateau Community Forest in Poestenkill, N.Y.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.