$76,000 needed to keep island open for the public

A Northeast Kingdom gem is for sale

The iconic island in Island Pond is at the heart of the community’s scenic character. It is a popular destination in winter and summer.

It’s also a key part of the area’s recreation economy. Locals have enjoyed pulling boats up to the beach. But, there are no formal agreements in place to keep the island open to the public.

The island is for sale and has been on the open market for several years. If it is sold to another private owner, the place could be developed or closed to the public. This would forever change the character and use of the beloved island for the community.

“Members of the community reached out to us with their concerns about the island being sold on the private market,” said Kerry O’Brien, Project Director for VLT. “They wondered how the island could be protected.”

“We looked at a few options to protect the island but keep it open to the public,” Kerry added. “Our goal was to find an owner who was willing to manage public use of the island but still care for its special natural resources.”

A place for people and nature

With this goal in mind, we worked with partners at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR). Together we explored the possibility of the island and a small lakeshore parcel becoming part of Brighton State Park.

If our effort is successful, the public will gain year-round access to the island. It will also mean that the property’s natural features, including a rare Red Pine Forest and unique breeding habitat for bald eagles and loons, will be permanently protected. That is because the land will be conserved with us through a conservation easement that will ensure public access and restrict development.

FPR has secured a contract to purchase the 16-acre island in Island Pond and the lakeshore parcel from private owners. We anticipate that state funding will cover the bulk of the cost, but approximately $76,000 is needed by November 2023.

The three-acre lakeshore parcel, located off Lake Street on Bay Lane, provides access to the island. It is a key piece of the project because it will help staff at Brighton State Park manage the land.

Community donations sought by November 2023

We need more funding to complete the sale and save the island. The cost to buy, conserve and establish a modest stewardship fund for the properties is approximately $1.1 million. With FPR, we have applied for grants from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and FPR’s internal funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. If we receive these grants, they will cover approximately 93% of the funds needed for the project.

That leaves 7%, or approximately $76,000, which needs to be raised through community donations by November 2023. Generous community members and the Community National Bank have already signed on, kicking off the fundraising efforts.

Community involvement and input

With the land under FPR’s ownership, the community will be able to participate in a public process to develop a plan for management and future use of the properties as part of Brighton State Park. The community’s participation and engagement will be an important part of making this project successful — to ensure the properties are well managed, protected and consistent with the community’s recreational goals.

The effort has the approval of the Brighton Select Board, which expressed its support at a meeting in May 2023. “The island is such a special place and valuable resource in our community,” said Ross Stevens, local Island Pond landowner. “Seeing posted signs on the island and then having it listed on the open market was a big concern for me. I think its development was inevitable had VLT and FPR not stepped up to conserve it.”