The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), and the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development are celebrating the opening of the Turner Hill Wildlife Management Area, located in Athens and Grafton, on Sunday, June 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The celebration will include brief presentations and tours exploring the natural and cultural history of the property. Light refreshments will be served.
Turner Hill WMA conserves upland forests and wetlands, including a federally endangered Northeastern bulrush that requires beaver-flooded wetlands such as those found on the property. The bulrush was first brought to the attention of biologists from the Fish & Wildlife Department by local citizens of Athens. The WMA was created through collaboration with TNC, which purchased one of the tracts, and with VELCO, which donated the land for roughly half of the 600-acre property.
“We understand that our efforts to provide reliable electricity in Vermont impact the environment,” said Brian Connaughton, director of capital projects for VELCO. “Because of this, we feel a responsibility to ensure that special places such as Turner Hill are protected for current and future generations.”
Patrick Berry, Commissioner of the Fish & Wildlife Department, was quick to thank the many partners on the project. He also pointed out the value of the land to hunters, hikers, and birdwatchers. “In addition to the natural and cultural values found on the properties, the Athens Dome Wetland Complex provides outstanding recreation opportunities in a corner of Vermont that does not have a lot of public lands,” said Berry. “This property will serve as an excellent addition to our statewide system of wildlife management areas.”
Emily Boedecker, Acting State Director for the Vermont Chapter of TNC, reiterated the ecological importance of these wetlands. “The high plateau of Athens Dome is one of only a few places where beavers can have free rein, without their activities being at odds with human development,” said Boedecker.
Turner Hill WMA contains the Turner farmstead, established in 1873 by Sally and Alexander Turner, who escaped slavery in the south during the Civil War. One of their daughters, Daisy Turner (1883-1988), was a well-known historian and storyteller who lived in Grafton until the age of 104. The Division for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Trust of Vermont are seeking a partner willing to rehabilitate and preserve the historic building and farmstead artifacts found on the property.
“The Turner Farmstead project provides a unique opportunity to preserve and interpret an important African-American heritage site and broaden our understanding of Vermont’s history and culture,” said Noelle MacKay, Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Funding for the purchase of lands not donated by VELCO came from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Grant to recover federally endangered species, and from the Vermont Duck Stamp Fund for the acquisition and enhancement of wetlands.
The celebration will be held at the end of Turner Hill Road, which is located 1.4 miles south of Grafton on the Grafton/Townshend Road.
From the South: Head north out of Townshend on the Grafton Road in the center of the village and continue for 3 miles. Turn left and continue on the Grafton/ Townshend Road for 5.2 miles. Turner Hill Road is on the right – follow to the end of road.
From the North: From Grafton, take the Townshend/Grafton Road south 1.4 miles. Turner Hill Road is on the left – follow to the end of road.
For more information, contact Patty Malenfant at (802) 476-0199.
Media Contacts: Jane Lazorchak, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Dept, 802-479-4405; Emily Boedecker, The Nature Conservancy, 802-778-0919; Brian Connaughton, Vermont Electric Power Company, 802-770-6227