A group of mountain bikers from Canada are about to head off on the 70-mile Millstone Trail system in Barre Town.
"It's been in all the mountain bike magazines and it's on the mountain bike forums as a good place to come ride," said Brent Doxtater of Ottawa.
It's precisely the kind of visitor that Pierre Couture of the Millstone Trails Association has worked for more than a decade to attract. And news that Sen. Patrick Leahy and the Forest Service had secured $400,000 to acquire 400 acres for a new Barre Town forest is the culmination of a dream.
"What's really unique about this proposal is that it also encompasses some economic development potential and it's also a cultural and historic heritage project as well," Couture said.
Couture, who grew up working in the local quarries, started the Millstone Trail Association, modeling it on the success of Burke's Kingdom Trails Network. It's a place for hikers, mountain bikers, skiers and snowshoers to explore 1,000 acres of abandoned quarry land. But four years ago that dream was in jeopardy.
"Rock of Ages called us to tell us say a chunk of their property which we had been using in our trail network was going to be going up for sale," Couture said.
Couture and other like-minded locals sprung into action and the town forest idea was born. The forest is made up of 12 parcels, the majority former Rock of Ages quarry land, dotted with ponds and surrounded by grout piles.
In addition to recreation the forest is also managed and will allow Barre Town to earn some revenue from the wood. From recreation to community development, advocates say the forest presented a unique opportunity.
"Our mission is conserving land for people, so this structure really brings the focus on the people and it brings those natural resource values and those recreational values close to home as opposed to being on a public land that's two hours away," said Rodger Krussman of the Trust for Public Land.
"We really feel that for Barre Town this is a unique opportunity to invest 8 percent in dollars and get a million dollar plus piece of property that not only played a major part in the town's history, but has the potential to play a significant part in the town's economic future as well," Couture said.
From turn-of-the 20th century quarry to protected forest, finding new uses for the land.
In addition to federal and other grants, the $1.3 million effort was made possible by the residents of Barre Town and donations to the Millstone Trail Association.
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