Burlington, VT – The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition – which includes Parks Foundation of Burlington, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, the Episcopal Church in Vermont, and the City of Burlington – announced the goal of permanently protecting critical shoreline forests and improving public access to a 163-acre forest block in the heart of Burlington to be protected and forever open to the public. This urban wilderness stretches from Lake Champlain to North Avenue and provides the scenic backdrop for the Burlington Waterfront’s spectacular sunsets and provides a welcoming sanctuary for reflection and recreation in the heart of Burlington.
“Over the last six years the City has succeeded at expanding public access to and enjoyment of Lake Champlain by creating new parks and improving public lake access in the Urban Reserve, behind the Water Plant, and on the western acres of Cambrian Rise,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Expanding and improving public access to 163-acres of spectacular natural lands in the heart of the City dramatically expands this effort and will further ensure that future generations of Burlingtonians will continue to enjoy an outstanding quality of life and access to the outdoors even as we grow and evolve. When completed, City residents will have access to the Lake Champlain shoreline nearly contiguous from Perkins Pier to Rock Point. Thank you to the Episcopal Church, the other members of the Coalition, and our City team for working tirelessly to make today’s announcement possible.”
“We are so proud to be working to conserve one of the most ecologically significant shoreline forests in our 40-year history," noted Chris Boget, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust. “Not only does this incredible conservation project protect the water quality of Lake Champlain, it also allows folks to visit the old-growth trees, majestic cliffs, and restored trails of this magnificent natural area.”
The Coalition has worked together to conserve 113.5 acres at Rock Point with easements to allow for conservation and public access and improve the trail system on an additional 50 acres of the adjacent Arms Forest. The fundraising goal for conservation, stewardship, and trail improvements for public use is $818,000. Funds have now been contributed through the City’s Conservation Legacy Fund, supporters of the Coalition groups, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the State of Vermont Recreational Trails Program, and private donors, leaving the Coalition with less than $50,000 to reach our goal.
“The conservation and stewardship of Rock Point fulfills the vision of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, which has owned Rock Point since 1865. We wanted to protect it and also provide a welcoming sanctuary in the heart of Burlington for a growing city. Through our community gardens, camp, conference center and many programs, we serve the wider community, while also doing our part to care for creation," said Bishop Thomas Ely. TheEpiscopal Church in Vermont is also making an investment of over $1.9 million in upgrading its facilities and trails, purchasing a 35-tracker solar array, and providing for future stewardship though its separate Partnership Campaign for Rock Point.
“This is great news for our community and demonstrates the strength of the Coalition. Our collaboration has inspired dozens of residents to contribute to our silent capital campaign. Today we launch the public phase of the campaign, and we are excited to have a long-time friend and loyal supporter who will match all new donations, dollar-for-dollar, to help us close out the campaign," said John Bossange, Chair of the Parks Foundation of Burlington.
Donations can be sent securely online by visiting: www.parksfoundationburlington.org or www.LCLT.org. Or mailed to: Parks Foundation, 645 Pine St., Suite B, Burlington, VT 05401 or Lake Champlain Land Trust, 1 Main St., Suite 205, Burlington, VT 05401.
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Protecting Natural Resources
Conservation of this land protects several different natural communities including Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest, Dry Oak-Hickory-Hophornbeam Forest, and a rare Lake Sand Beach natural community. The protected land would also conserve the habitat for dozens of rare and state-threatened species including Harsh Sunflower, Sweet Joe-Pye Weed and Squarerose Goldenrod.
The Rock Point Peninsula is home to the Champlain Thrust Fault, which is the largest thrust vault in North America and visited by geologists from around the world. The thrust is created by two different types of bedrock, Iberville shale which sits beneath Dunham Dolostone that was formed 40 million years earlier. The inversion was created during the Taconic Orogency (440 million years ago) when the land that is now known as Maine and New Hampshire collided against present day Vermont and created the Green Mountains. The entire thrust fault extends from the Catskills to Canada, but is uniquely visible on the Rock Point Peninsula.
The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition was formed in 2017 with a mission to permanently protect the Rock Point forest, create safe access points from the Burlington Bike Path and local neighborhoods, ensure that the area will remain accessible to the public forever, and improve the trails of this urban natural area.
The Lake Champlain Land Trust (LCLT) and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) will hold a Conservation and Public Access Easement on lands owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont. The project uniquely combines private ownership with public access trails, as LCLT, VHCB, and the City of Burlington will ensure natural resource protection and permanent access to the property.
The project will help to tie the current trails to the greater trail network of the area, which includes connectivity between the City of Burlington’s Arms Forest and the Burlington Bike Path/Greenway. In addition, public access from North Beach will enhance the experience of our residents and visitors to North Beach and the Campground.
About The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition Organizations
The Parks Foundation of Burlington
The Parks Foundation of Burlington is an independent, 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed in 2013 with the purpose to seek opportunities to enhance park assets and recreation programs in Burlington, Vermont through specific initiatives. The Foundation’s signature project—a full renovation of the eight mile-long Burlington Bike Path—is well underway and completed sections are receiving rave reviews from path users.
Friends of Rock Point and the Episcopal Church in Vermont
Since 1855, Rock Point has served as a unique center of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, welcoming friends and neighbors attracted to its natural beauty and its peaceful, quiet, and social embrace. Each year, nearly 10,000 people come to Rock Point, finding a place to walk, seek solitude, learn, play, sing, pray, think, share, and be. The mission of the Rock Point Center is to be a welcoming sanctuary of spirituality, creativity, community, education, training, and environmental stewardship. Friends of Rock Point is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed to support the conservation and enhancement of Rock Point.
Lake Champlain Land Trust
The Lake Champlain Land Trust is a member-supported, 501(c)3 non-profit organization working with the community for the last 40 years to save land, conserve places to hike and paddle, and protect Lake Champlain’s water quality. The Lake Champlain Land Trust has conserved over 10,000 acres, 17 islands, and 21 miles of lake and river shoreline in both Vermont and New York—including more than 27 public access areas. The Lake Champlain Land Trust will hold several conservation easements and forever monitor the protections of the Rock Point land.
Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront oversees all of Burlington’s 35+ Parks and Recreation Programs covering 550+ Acres of Open Space, four public beaches, street trees and Greenways, Community Gardens, North Beach Campground, the Community Boathouse Marina, and other lands and facilities.