ACADEMY ROAD, THETFORD, VT—Through a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) and donations from the Thetford Conservation Commission and the Upper Valley Land Trust, Thetford landowner Lilla Willey signed documents on Monday topermanently protect 51 additional acres of her scenic farmland on Academy Road. The signing of the conservation easement and the small celebration that followed took place at the Upper Valley Land Trust’s office on Buck Road in Hanover. The Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT) will be responsible for ensuring that the development restrictions included in the easement are adhered to in the years to come. The successful completion of this conservation project was made possible through a generous bargain sale of development rights donated by the landowner, which leveraged federal, state and local grant funding.
According to Li Shen, Chair of Thetford’s Conservation Commission, “If this land were not conserved it would become, no doubt, a highly desirable site for subdivision and development.” The recently conserved land includes almost 1,000 feet of road frontage on Academy Road and a sizeable open field, which combine to allow passers-by to glimpse scenic views of Mt. Cube, Smarts Mountain, Cardigan Mt., Holts Ledge, as well as the more distant Mt. Moosilauke. Academy Road is a town-designated scenic byway and has been selected as, “One of the highest priorities [for protection] for the municipality,” according to Thetford Selectboard Chair, Tig Tillinghast.
In addition to being scenic, the open field is very productive. It is made up of prime agricultural soils, as well as soils of statewide significance. These fields are hayed and leased by a local farmer and also used as horse pasture.
Approximately 28 acres of the property is managed forestland. Notably, this includes a stand of Norway spruce. The remaining forestland is characterized as a hemlock/hardwood forest. In addition to open farmland and the mixture of forest communities, the property includes two ponds and a small amount of wetland.
The Willey property also serves as an important scenic buffer to the award winning trail system on the nearby Thetford Hill State Park land. The trail system may be extended at some point in the future, since the conservation easement granted by Lilla Willey includes provisions for the possibility of future public access.
The protection of the Willey farmland adds to the already 377 acres protected within the immediate vicinity. These protected lands include Thetford Hill State Park, and two privately owned parcels, both conserved with UVLT. In total, there are 490 acres conserved by UVLT within 5 miles of the Willey Farm and an additional 1,400 acres of other protected lands. Current and future generations of Thetford residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the recreational, scenic, and agricultural uses that these conserved lands have to offer.