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Land preserved in two Upper Valley towns

  • Mascoma Valley Preservation, the group restoring Grafton’s Center Meetinghouse, recently took ownership of 175 acres and three historic buildings in East Grafton, N.H. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Northeast Wilderness Trust has purchased 359 acres for a preserve in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. The new Bramhall Wilderness Preserve is home to pristine cascading brooks, towering trees and abundant wildlife, according to the Trust, which bought the property from Bridgewater artist Paedra Bramhall. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Courtesy Northeast Wilderness Trust

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/17/2020 9:10:48 PM
Modified: 4/17/2020 9:10:34 PM

BRIDGEWATER CORNERS — Hundreds of acres of Upper Valley forest and prime natural habitat will be protected through two recent land acquisitions by area nonprofits.

Mascoma Valley Preservation, the group restoring Grafton’s Center Meetinghouse, recently took ownership of 175 acres and three historic buildings in East Grafton.

Meanwhile, the Montpelier-based Northeast Wilderness Trust has purchased 359 acres for a preserve in Bridgewater Corners.

The new Bramhall Wilderness Preserve is home to pristine cascading brooks, towering trees and abundant wildlife, according to the Trust, which bought the property from Bridgewater artist Paedra Bramhall.

Bramhall was born in a cabin on the parcel in 1942 and lived there as a child. She returned after graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1970 and the site became home to her first art studio.

“It’s also given me, as a full-time artist, the quietness around me that has influenced my art throughout my life,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“I never had to buy this land. It was given forward to me by my mom and in working with the Northeast Wilderness Trust, it’s my way of giving forward to hopefully a better world,” Bramhall added.

The preserve, which lies just south of the Appalachian Trail, includes a section of the north branch of the Ottauquechee River and two smaller tributaries.

Hemlocks shade the water, creating prime habitat for native brook trout. Bramhall said she began efforts to preserve the property in the 1980s, but it took time to find the right partner.

She wants the land to grow naturally, without logging or other forms of timber management found in some conserved properties.

Under the sale, the Vermont River Conservancy will hold a forever wild easement and build a short trail for public access on foot.

“If I could be an owl 50 years from now sitting up on a tall branch, watching people marvel at the size of the trees, the cleanness of the water and the coolness in the shade, that’ll be pretty satisfying,” Bramhall said.

The property’s sale was made possible by a $160,000 grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, although fundraising efforts are still underway to secure a total of $204,000 for long-term stewardship efforts. People can find out more at http://www.newildernesstrust.org/bramhall.

East Grafton mill

Meanwhile, Mascoma Valley Preservation hopes to breathe new life into a 175-acre parcel donated by the children of the late East Grafton native Stanley Kimball.

Kimball, born in 1917, was educated in East Grafton’s one-room schoolhouse and later rode the train to Canaan High School.

He went on to become chief radiologist at Richmond Heights General Hospital in Cleveland but came back to Grafton with his family in the summertime.

Kimball died in 2017 at the age of 99.

“We all have fond memories of Grafton and truly feel a part of it,” his daughter Pamela Kimball said in a news release. “Restoring the property will help so many and we’ll know a deep part of us all is still there.”

The property’s history dates back to at least the 1830s, when the barn was built, according to Andrew Cushing, president of Mascoma Valley Preservation. The parcel’s harness shop, which was later turned into a residence, and mill both were built before the 1870s, he said.

At the time, East Grafton was then called “Bungtown” and mills and factories dotted Mill Brook, Cushing explained. Residents produced everything from cider to coffins in the once-industrial hub.

The site also two miles of frontage on Mill Brook and prime wildlife habitat.

“It’s a nice property and with the logging roads we see a lot of potential for recreational trails,” Cushing said.

The nonprofit preservation group is exploring several options for the site’s buildings, including some form of craftsmanship or event space in the mill. But before then, the buildings will likely require an extensive cleanup effort, Cushing said.

“MVP is not a historical society. We don’t take buildings to use as museum space or passive use,” he said, adding that members want to bring life back to the property in some form.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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