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Woodstock Selectboard declines Faulkner Park offer

  • Dara Safizadeh, left, and Mora Coon, of West Hartford, Conn., walk the Faulkner Trail to the South Peak of Mount Tom in Woodstock, Vt., Friday, May 28, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2021 8:54:24 PM
Modified: 7/6/2021 8:54:30 PM

WOODSTOCK —The Selectboard voted Tuesday to reject an offer from the trust that manages Faulkner Park to transfer ownership of the property and an endowment to support it over to the town.

The vote was unanimous, with only board member John Doten not present.

A group called Concerned Citizens for Faulkner Park had threatened to sue the town, and the Faulkner Trust’s administrator also declined the town’s request for a larger endowment, two factors that doomed the proposal as it stood, Selectboard Chair Mary Riley said after the meeting.

Board members didn’t want to put the town in legal jeopardy, she said.

The Faulkner Trust, which is administered by JP Morgan Chase, proposed in November 2019 to transfer a parcel of around 25 acres, comprising the park and a neighboring trail up the side of Mount Tom, to the town, along with an endowment of $850,000.

Longtime Woodstock resident Marianne Faulkner established the trail, and her 1958 will created the park and trust.

In offering Faulkner Park to the town, the trustee noted that the property would benefit from greater local oversight, and town officials expressed a willingness to consider the idea.

But Woodstock residents were sharply divided over the proposal, with some insisting that the plan ran counter to Marianne Faulkner’s will, and that the trustee wasn’t providing enough money to fund the park in perpetuity.

Three citizens groups formed over the past year to oppose the handover.

Wendy Wright Marrinan, a neighbor of Faulkner Park and founder of the nonprofit Friends of Faulkner Park, said Tuesday that the Selectboard made “a very good decision.”

“The reason this is a good decision is that it’s keeping in line with Marianne Faulkner’s wishes and will,” Marrinan said.

Opponents of transferring the park to the town hold that Faulkner wanted the land to be managed by a private entity.

The Selectboard voted on a motion that made clear that it was rejecting the trust’s proposal “as it stands,” language that leaves the door open for the trust to make another proposal.

“It is in the trust’s hands,” Riley said. “I don’t have a sense of what happens next. ... I’m not sure what the trust will do.”

Marrinan said Friends of Faulkner Park, which she and others incorporated in December, is willing and able to manage the park.

“I think that the town and the trust are very aware that there’s a local option ready to go to work,” she said.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.




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