Tree Farm Management to continue overseeing Essex Jct. facility
ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - A spot devoted to cross-country trails, soccer fields and sports will keep the same management.
The Tree Farm Management Group, which has been overseeing the Essex Junction facility, will get to do it for four more years.
The conversation Monday night surrounding the lease lasted nearly two hours.
“It seems like an inappropriate time for such a complicated conversation,” said Giles Willey, a Tree Farm board member. “Having endured an hour of the succession plan and not getting much concurrence on that, I think our issue is a smaller issue relative to the bigger issues they’re facing in the succession.”
Even with the recent separation vote, the Essex town and village rec departments are looking to jointly run the Tree Farm facility in Essex Junction. Both rec directors originally planned on taking over once the municipality’s lease with Tree Farm Management expired next July. After some feedback, both rec directors came back to the table with an offer to extend the lease for two more years.
“There’s one general extension for it to not end in July, but then with a proposed plan of how the transition will occur going into the 2023 season, then the 2024 season,” explained Ally Vile, director of Essex Parks and Rec.
Even still, Tree Farm board member Willey said that’s not enough time. The board went to Monday night’s meeting asking for another 10-year lease, but they compromised on four, hoping for a smoother transition.
Members of the public speaking at the meeting were mostly in favor of that decision while raising concerns about the cost and quality of the facility’s upkeep.
“If you were to take the labor being volunteered then put an hourly wage to it, that’s about $25,000 a year,” Willey said.
Very few wanted to see the rec departments take over. Those people say locked gates and dog waste are out of hand for public land.
“I’ve tried to go to the tree farm during normal park hours, which I consider daytime,” Essex resident Steven Eustace said. “If I want to go for a run in the morning, it’s a public park, it should not be locked.”
For transparency purposes, the town and village will be reviewing quarterly finance reports from the management group.
With that, they’ll start developing a business plan for when they start managing the property.
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