In the short term, town purchase of the land will ensure the land will remain available for public use.
In the long term, West Windsor is hoping to form a small co-op nonprofit downhill ski area. “There is one remaining double chair that the current owner has expressed an interest in transferring to the town. This would provide an opportunity to offer downhill skiing, which everyone is truly excited about,” West Windsor Selectboard Chairman Glenn Seward told SnoCountry.com.
According to Valley News, of the $600,000 to buy the resort property, which closed in 2010 and has seen all but one of its lifts sold, $50,000 will come from the town’s conservation fund, and the remaining $550,000 will be raised by the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land.
“There has been a lot of interest in folks participating both financially and volunteering time to get the downhill skiing aspect up and running,” Seward told us. “It is incredibly tough to compete in today’s market without a huge capital investment. As a town asset, this takes on a whole different look. It’s a great ski area and has real promise in the concept we have.”
Many local residents have a personal history in the ski area, lending a passion to make the new venture a success. Seward began his 18-year history with the ski area mowing lawns, and by the end of his involvement was the ski area general manager.
The Trust for Public Land is working with the landowner to secure an option on the property. Seward expects the option to be secured shortly, which will allow Trust for Public Land to begin fundraising through federal, state, and private funding sources for the money to acquire the property. Seward stated he hoped to have a closing on the property by July 2015.
The 469 acres would go into conservation easement, permanently preserved for recreation activity for generations to come.
Following fundraising to purchase the land, the town will focus on the formation of a not-for-profit co-op to develop the property. Seward expects the base lodge will end up in the hands of the nonprofit, for use as typical base lodge activities.
In addition to improving property values in town, Seward hopes the purchase of the land will replace the recreational opportunities that were lost when ski area closed.
“We feel pretty strongly that if we can further develop the recreational trail system, which is a highly regarded mountain bike destination, we stand a chance at improving the economic activity here in town,” he said.
Nearly 350 townspeople showed for the vote. “We made a real effort to keep voters informed in this process through direct mailings to each voter. Folks were involved in the process. They are willing to support this project –a pretty unusual project for a small Vermont town of 1000 people to take on.”
Photo: The village of Brownsville in the Town of West Windsor with Mt. Ascutney beyond. (Cathy Boedtker)