The Ashley Community Forest
The Ashley Community Forest is a 256.4 acre property that was donated to the Towns of Sharon and Strafford in January 2022 by the Alliance for Vermont Communities. It is accessed via Nutting Road in Strafford and is intended to be an open space asset for the two towns. The day-to-day oversight of the property will be through a 5-person management board with two representatives appointed by the Strafford Selectboard, two representatives appointed by the Sharon Selectboard and one independent member selected by the four appointed members. The board is expected to meet monthly during the first year and is required to meet at least quarterly. As an official town board, the meetings will be open to the public, minutes published, and finances tracked with the town treasurers.
The Ashley Community Forest Board
David Paganelli (Strafford)
Annie Penfield (Strafford)
Michael Sacca (Tunbridge)
Erik Skarsten (Sharon)
Rob Stainton (Sharon)
Volunteers have an interest in overseeing this new piece of public land and activating it with recreational improvements and outdoor education programing so that it will serve the goals of the community. Skills related to forestry, trails, ecology, wildlife stewardship, outdoor education, historic preservation, marketing, and budget/finance are all valuable. The hope is that there will be diverse skills and interests amongst the five commissioners.
Vision for the Future
During the next year, the major task will be to solicit public input and write a new management plan for the property outlining a vision for the balance between forestry, recreation, ecological protection and historic preservation. The expectation is that there will be several public meetings to solicit community input into this management vision. Technical support for drafting the management plan is available from the Windsor County Forester, the Orange County Forester and the Vermont Land Trust.
After a management plan is in place, volunteers will be needed to implement the plan including building trails, offering outdoor programs, and stewarding the property including oversight of mowing, trail building, boundary marking, and any special events. Volunteers are needed for a mix of committee work, organizing programing for youth and adults, and hands-on forest stewardship tasks.
Potential Uses for Ashley Community Forest
Examples of potential uses of the Ashley Community Forest include:
- Trails for hiking, mountain biking, skiing or snowmobiling
- Maintenance and restoration of cellar holes and open areas
- Ecological inventory to identify sensitive habitats
- Wildlife habitat improvement projects
- School programs on ecology and local history
- Special events like trail races
- Community firewood program distributing cordwood from the forest to families in need of heating assistance
- Timber harvesting to meet wildlife goals and produce occasional revenue for property stewardship