DUMMERSTON -- When it comes to Dutton Pines State Park, residents spoke and state officials listened.
In response to calls for more attention to be paid to the small park off Route 5, officials from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation on Thursday visited Dummerston to clean up the property.
Work included extensive brush-clearing. And Tim Morton, a state lands stewardship forester, said the department will put Dutton Pines on its regular maintenance schedule.
"All this work is really because the community spoke up," Morton said.
At just 13 acres, Dutton Pines is the smallest park in the state's Brattleboro Management Unit, which also includes Fort Dummer State Park, Molly Stark State Park and Sweet Pond State Park.
The state purchased the land in 1937 from Edith Dutton so that it could be developed as a park in tribute to her late father. The park opened in 1940 and was a popular spot when Route 5 was a main north-south route for travelers.
"When the interstate went in, the use dropped precipitously," Morton said, adding that a park ranger's position eventually was eliminated.
"The parcel was basically mothballed for 30 years -- just light, local use," he said.
State officials haven't been sure of what to do with the park and have floated the idea of turning over the property to a local organization. Morton noted that the park "has been on a list of surplus property for years."
But some Dummerston residents grew concerned that the state might sell the park to a developer. At the very least, there were worries that the park's structures -- built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s -- might be razed.
Parks & Recreation officials last year attended a Dummerston meeting to dispel the notion that the state would unload Dutton Pines. And it also became clear that there was no shortage of local interest in the site.
"We didn't think anybody cared about the place. But we realized that people did," Morton said.
"In this area, it's important to this town," he added. "And people have a historical memory of what it was."
Bill Johnson, a member of Dummerston Conservation Commission and Transition Dummerston, said many locals "had recollection of using the park ... everybody was just disappointed to see that it was not in great use now."
This past summer, interested residents met with Morton and toured the park. They also established an informal organization dubbed Friends of Dutton Pines.
Johnson sees the park as "honoring the memory of the Dutton family that had the vision to set aside this land for perpetuity" as well as a tribute to Civilian Conservation Corps work.
"This is a place that we have the opportunity to preserve," Johnson said.
State officials are now taking a more active role in that preservation. Work on Thursday included clearing brush near the park's entrance.
"We will start brushing this out once a year," Morton said, noting that such work hasn't been done regularly for "decades."
The state also will remove 20 trees that have been deemed hazardous. And Morton said it appears that two of the park's structures -- a bath house and a pump house -- likely will have to be removed due to deterioration.
But the park's former ranger cabin and a large picnic shelter with a fireplace are in decent shape given their age.
The shelter "is going to need a new roof," Morton said. "But overall, it's sound."
Though a few Dummerston residents assisted with Thursday's cleanup, Morton said "most of the work that gets done here will be done by staff."
However, drumming up more interest in the park will fall to local residents. Johnson said the Friends of Dutton Pines could at some point begin to "actively promote" potential uses such as nature walks and winter recreation.
For now, though, he is happy that the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation is once again taking notice of Dutton Pines.
"It's good to see that response, especially in this time of tight state budgets," Johnson said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.