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 [Vermont Land Trust] with their concerns about the island being sold on the private market,” said Kerry O’Brien, project director for Vermont Land Trust (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.”
With this goal in mind, VLT worked with partners at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), exploring the possibility of the island and a small lakeshore parcel becoming part of Brighton State Park.
If the 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.
FPR has secured a contract to purchase the 16-acre island in Island Pond and the lakeshore parcel from private owners. 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.
The cost to buy, conserve, and establish a modest stewardship fund for the properties is approximately $1.1 million. Together, VLT and FPR 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 the grants are received, 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.
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.”