PUTNEY -- Members of the Putney Mountain Association have been working their way up a pretty steep hill and the end is in sight, but they are looking for a little more help to get over the top.
The group found out last year that an important property that abuts two other conserved parcels was going to be put on the market and the Putney Mountain Association was given the initial opportunity to come up with the approximately $407,150 needed to complete the deal.
The Vermont Housing Conservation Board awarded the group $200,000 to help jumpstart the fundraising campaign, and the group has been able to bring in another $140,000 through other grants and donations.
Now, with about $67,000 to go to complete the sale, the organization is asking anyone who has ever walked out on Putney Mountain to think about giving what they can to make sure the land is not sold to a developer.
"We're so close. We're in the home stretch," said Putney Mountain Association board member Pat Shields. "The family that owns this property wants it conserved, but if we can't buy it will go to a developer. Pieces like this don't become available every day, and when they do you have to act."
The Putney Mountain Association wants to purchase 144 acres that are located between two other conserved parcels within the Putney Mountain trail system. The land, known as the Hannum-O'Connor parcel, connects with the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the Putney Mountain Association's 84-acre Dine property which was purchased 14 years ago.
The Hannum-O'Connor parcel includes 683 feet of frontage on Holland Hill Road, and would help anchor the complete southern terminus of the 16-mile ridge running from Grafton to Putney through the Windmill Hill Pinnacle and Putney Mountain trails.
"If we are able to complete this deal The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association and Putney Mountain Association will own almost 2,400 acres, all of which would be permanently conserved and open to the public," said Shields. "The two organizations have been working together since the 1990s to conserve the entirety of the ridge and this is an important piece toward doing that."
Shields said if the organization is able to complete the purchase it will be able to develop new trailheads and trails that connect with the Putney Mountain trail system.
Since receiving the VHCB grant, the group has also received grants from the Davis Conservation Fund, the Windham Foundation and Fields Pond Foundation.
The group has also raised about $107,000 in pledges and donations through direct appeals.
Now, Shields said, the group is opening its appeal up to the public.
The land deal has to close before July 10 or the parcel will be put on the market.
Putney Mountain is one of the most popular walking trails in Windham County. During hawk migration season there is someone on the mountain every single day for three months and the migration counts that have been recorded for years are used by ornithologists along the East Coast.
"We've gone out to get the big donors and now we are counting on people to help us close the gap," Shields said. "We really want to finish this up and get it done."
Donations can be sent to Putney Mountain Association, P.O. Box 953, Putney, Vt. 05346.
For more information go to www.putneymountain.org
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.