Brothers eye 300-acre nature preserve at Deer Run Farm

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Editor's Note: This article was updated on Dec. 5 at 9:10 a.m. to correct an statement that the Scott Farm is conserved. The Scott farm is not conserved; it is a for-profit business, owned and managed by Landmark Trust USA.

DUMMERSTON — A new nature preserve is taking shape on nearly 300 acres in the northwest corner of Dummerston.

The parcel, formerly known as Deer Run Farm, is owned by brothers Alex and Chris Wilson. They inherited it from their parents Barbara and Conrad Wilson, who purchased the property in 1985. A small portion of the parcel is in Brookline.

"It's a beautiful piece of land," said Alex Wilson. "It's probably the wildest part of Dummerston."

After their parents died, the Wilson brothers sold the homestead and 64 acres to Mary Ellen Copeland and Ed Anthes, who are behind the push to purchase the rest of the land and preserve it as a wilderness area and wildlife corridor.

"If they can figure out a way to fund the purchase, my brother and I have agreed to sell it at less than the appraised value," Wilson said.

Dummerston is also home to preserved land on Black Mountain, protected by the Nature Conservancy and Prospect Hill Pasture, which is owned by the town. A handful of privately owned parcels lies between the proposed preserve and Putney Mountain, where the Putney Mountain Association and the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association have preserved land and maintain hiking trails. Wilson said the adjoining parcels to the soon-to-be-named Deer Run Preserve could be acquired or have conservation easements placed on them.

One of the ideas being tossed around is a wildlife corridor, potentially connecting the West River to the Green Mountain National Forest, Wilson said. And there is also the possibility the West River Trail will connect Brattleboro to the Deer Run Preserve via the Black Mountain property with a short walk on Camp Arden Road.

"These are long-term projects," Wilson said. "The reality with land conservation is, it's a long-term proposition. There's not one big acquisition that suddenly happens that puts a preserve in place."

Wilson said he and his brother have been planning on a timber harvest in the not-too-distant future. They also allow hunting, by permission. Wilson said the tract is home to the threatened Three Birds Orchid and to American ginseng, which were found during surveys of the land during the time Velco was proposing the expansion of a powerline easement on the property.

While there is currently no trail on the property, Wilson said, Roger Haydock has been walking the land, scoping out a possible trail.

"I've come up with a 2-mile route, which is a really nice route that is not too steep and has two pretty views along the way," said Haydock.

He said it would be nice to connect the property to other conservation lands in the area.

"A connection depends on the landowners in between," Haydock said. "Even if that can't happen, it will still be a lovely preserve."

Haydock is also working with the Landmark Trust to identify possible trails at Scott Farm, a for-profit business that is owned and managed by Landmark Trust USA. Wilson is on the board of trustees for Landmark Trust, which also owns Rudyard Kipling's Naulakha.

On Thursday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Dummerston Community Center on West Street, there will be a discussion and presentation on the proposal. Speakers at the meeting will include Haydock, game warden Kelly Price, Joan Weir of the Vermont Land Trust and Sam Farwell, who will be using maps and his experience hiking on this land to provide further details.

"My parents would have been very supportive of this idea," said Wilson, who grew up in Pennsylvania and came to Vermont by way of New Mexico. His father went to college in Vermont, and the Wilson family has roots in northern Vermont.

"They both had a great appreciation for the out-of-doors, for wildflowers, for trees and wildlife," Wilson said of his parents.

For more information, e-mail info@greenmountainconservancy.org or call 802-257-0012 and leave a message and your phone number.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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