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Nature Conservancy seeks to transfer Big Woods to Willsboro

WILLSBORO The Adirondack Nature Conservancy made a pitch on Monday night to turn privately-owned lands over to the town of Willsboro. Chris Maron, Champlain Valley Program Director for the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust, addressed the Willsboro town board April 14. He explained plans for the town to take ownership of the Big Woods on the Boquet River property, which contains land surrounding the former school building and 3,000 feet of river front. Maron said the Nature Conservancy hoped to protect the ecologically significant river corridor. The 110 acre parcel contains flood plane forest land, wetlands and important species like sycamore trees. The land transferred would be under a conservation easement. Previously, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy turned the Noblewood Park property over to the town in a similar deal. Maron said it was possible to subdivide the land, selling part of the property for possible development. One parcel, about five acres in size, would be returned to the tax rolls. Maron said The Nature Conservancy had determined the property around the former school would best lend itself to usage. The rest of the property would be turned over to the town for management, Maron said turning the property over to the town would ensure local control. The town and Nature Conservancy would work together on creating a recreation plan for the property. Subdivision, mining and excessive lighting would be prohibited. Some residents wanted to know what the financial impact on the town would be, since the land and trails would require maintenance. Maron said work could be performed by volunteers. Trails already exist on former logging roads, he added. Maron said it was possible to include the land turnover as part of the Champlain Quadricentennial, which takes place in 2009. Resident Laura Smith spoke in favor of the towns taking ownership of the property. She said town management of the property would increase quality of life for residents, since the parcel would afford recreational opportunities within walking distance of the hamlet. Smith said the property didnt necessarily need to place an additional burden on the Willsboro Department of Public Works. She has collected a list of 39 people interested in becoming involved in a possible Friends of Big Woods on the Boquet organization. The organization would help with upkeep of the property. David Thomas-Train, a founding member of the Friends of Pok-O-Moonshine, explained how the organization would work. The group would provide work parties several times a year for trail maintenance and restoration. The model, he said, is being used throughout the park. Willsboro Supervisor Lori Lincoln-Spooner asked if anyone wanted to speak against the towns taking ownership of the property, but no one objected. Resident Doug Ferris asked if hunting would be prohibited. He said the land was known for offering great duck hunting. Maron said the issue of hunting was open for discussion, and would need to be addressed in the land use plan. The Nature Conservancy plans to host a public hike is planned for Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m.-noon. Members of the Willsboro board elected to wait until next meeting to decide on the proposal at the next meeting, May 12. Old School Public Forum On Monday, April 21 at 7 p.m. in the Willsboro Central School auditorium, Eli Schwartzberg will be holding an open forum to share his thoughts and ideas regarding the impending purchase and future of the Willsboro Old School. He will be sharing his vision for senior housing and the re-vitalization of the old school. There will be an opportunity for citizens to share their thoughts, comments, and ideas with the developer. The informational meeting is open to all and interested parties are encouraged to attend. Currently, additional information or comments may be addressed to info@stonebrookproperties.net or by leaving a message at 536-9007.

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