Ahead of the June 15 deadline, four groups working to preserve a scenic 22.5-acre property at Exit 4 in Randolph have raised the $1 million necessary to purchase the land.
The land is the last piece of a 172-acre parcel being purchased from developer Jesse Sammis, who wanted to build a large multi-use project on the site. The location includes prime agricultural land and is several miles from the village center.
Earlier this year, a 149-acre parcel was purchased by the Montpelier-based Castanea Foundation. In turn, the foundation is selling the land to a local farmer.
The money to purchase the adjacent 22.5-acre property was raised by Preservation Trust of Vermont, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Conservation Law Foundation and the Randolph-area citizens group Exit 4 Open Space, who had fought the development plans.
"We wanted to finish the job and finish this conservation effort and we're so grateful to the many people who have donated to this project," says Paul Bruhn, executive director of Preservation Trust of Vermont.
Bruhn says approximately 480 donations were received.
"This is huge, not only for Randolph, but for all of Vermont," says David Hurwitz of Exit 4 Open Space. Hurwitz says the support for the land purchase shows people want to preserve working lands and concentrate development in village centers.
"A strong message has been sent that we want another way, and it's one that's more in keeping with Randolph's working landscape and also its rural character," says Hurwitz.
Exit 4 Open Space was organized in response to Sammis' plans for developing the land he owned along Interstate 89. Hurwitz says now that the land has been preserved, the group will stay active and shift its focus.
"Our work isn't going to stop here," he says. "From here on, we're going to re-focus and work together with other folks in town and do what we can to try to revitalize downtown Randolph and make it into the vibrant community that we all want."
Preservation Trust expects to close on the 22.5 acres in July. Hurwitz says ultimately a farmer or local conservation group will take ownership of the property.