2016-07-01 / Front Page

Edgar May land slated for new state park

By Tory Jones Bonenfant

The unmarked entrance to the Muckross property in Springfield, future site of a new state park, meanders between two homes across from the river near Paddock Road. — TORY JONES BONENFANTThe unmarked entrance to the Muckross property in Springfield, future site of a new state park, meanders between two homes across from the river near Paddock Road. — TORY JONES BONENFANTSPRINGFIELD — Just over a bridge on Paddock Road, a cool, shady unmarked road leads to a 204-acre property that, with a few improvements, is slated to soon become a new state park with an emphasis on environmental education. That was the dream of the former property owner, the late State Sen. Edgar May. The state aims to “honor Edgar’s wishes,” according to Craig Whipple, director of Vermont State Parks.

Whipple said on Thursday, June 30 that he did not have an estimated date for opening the state park in the state’s ongoing acquisition of the estate of the late Edgar May. Once the state’s acquisition of the land is completed, the Springfield community will be very involved in the next steps to talk about land use and design, he said.

“It’s a part of the community. We can’t do it without the community,” Whipple said.

Anything that would make a change to the appearance or use of the land, including long-term management, would go through a public process, which would kick in once the state acquires ownership. Several people in the department are involved in the acquisition, and community members are talking about forming a Friends of Muckross group to stay involved, which Whipple called a “terrific idea.”

The fundamental concept for the park is a “low-development, passive recreation” opportunity, he said. The state would not turn it into a big public beach or campground, but would keep it similar to the way it appears now, with an emphasis on environmental education and “helping kids connect with nature,” he said.

Abutting neighbor Arthur Lamort was outside his home on Thursday, watering his flowerbed. Lamort, who was May’s friend and neighbor since 2004, said that the property is “absolutely beautiful” and has three camp-style buildings, a pond, and a waterfall. A locked gate barred the road from entrance on Thursday.

Lamort said that he feels it is unfortunate it is taking so long to finalize the details and open the park, and that a few improvements will need to be made to the road up to the property.

Whipple said that the current property owners have arranged a cleanup of some barrels and a small dump site on the property, which he said is common for large acreage in the area.

“It’s not significant,” he said.

Vermont State Parks, a part of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation in the state’s Agency of Natural Resources, is “working towards acquiring” the property and finalizing Edgar May’s family’s donation to the state for state park use.

Locally, Ethan Phelps, the regional parks manager, is the state’s primary contact point during the process of acquiring the property. Phelps told Springfield's selectboard in November 2015 the transfer of property should be final by Dec. 30, but it remains in transition. It is currently owned in trust by the Louise Breson May Foundation, managed by Peter and Adam Kunin. The trust has agreed to turn over the land, two houses, and a "significant amount of money" to the state park system, Phelps said last fall.

The department refers to the land as “the Muckross property,” but the name may change through the public comment process, Whipple said. However, he recalled that May might have wanted to keep the name “Muckross” associated with the land.

The entrance to the more than 200 acres is located about three-quarters of a mile up a gravel road off Paddock Road in Springfield, near a bicycling path and the river.

When May was alive, several years ago, he approached the Department of Forests, Parks and Resources with the idea of the property becoming a state park for community members and especially for children of all economic backgrounds, Whipple said.

“We worked with him for several months on the idea,” he said.

Whipple said the department promised May a decision by the time May returned from his annual trip to Arizona. On that trip, May passed away. Since then, the department has been attempting to fulfill his wishes for the property, Whipple said.

The department has been engaged in discussion with May’s heirs since that time, working out the legal details, he said. At this time, the state does not yet own the land, which remains private property.

The property, which Whipple said is between 204 and 207 acres, is slated to become the newest Vermont State Park once the property transfer becomes official, and will continue with community programs such as a day camp.

At this time, a youth day camp program known as Muckross Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation Day Camp, lead by AmeriCorps Vista volunteers, works with a local group called All-4-One to allow children an outdoor nature camp experience. That camp took place last year on a neighbor’s property, but once the state park is established, the state would like to move it onto the Muckross property, Whipple said.

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