Conservation of Zack Woods
Zack Woods is a unique 393 acre area containing 9 undeveloped shoreline ponds, including Zack Woods Pond, Perch Pond, and a third of the shoreline of Mud Pond. Zack Woods Pond is one of the top 9 lakes in Vermont, ranked the highest for wilderness-like character. Zack Woods Pond has been a nesting location for the Common Loon since 1996, due to its unique natural island. The land is a popular destination for hiking, running, skiing, and snowshoeing. The ponds are a destination for swimming, paddling, and fishing.
In 2008 users of the ponds became concerned over the amount of trash dumping and out of control fires in the woods. The phosphorous levels of the ponds were also rising dramatically from runoff from the roads and over used campsites. The property was owned by Morrisville Power & Light and two different home owners. A group of concerned citizens made a presentation to Morrisville Power & Light about the preservation of the land. After the presentation, Morrisville Power & Light worked with the Friends of Zack Woods on an interim management plan and worked toward State acquisition.
In 2009, The Friends of Zack Woods, FZW formalized as a group with the determination to keep the area accessible to the public and educate users on the preservation of the 393 acre area. In order to purchase the property, Friends of Zack Woods approached the Trust for Public Land for assistance in filing for the federal Forest Legacy grant. This grant is awarded to groups that protect forestlands from conversion to non-forest uses. This grant required FZW to write a report assessing the property which included, taking water quality samples, evaluation of the natural resources on the property, and providing the Department of Fish & Wildlife assessment. The Forest Legacy Grant came through in 2012 with The Trust for Public Land temporarily owning the land.
During the interim management of the property, Morrisville Water & Light as well as individuals from state agencies were very incredibly helpful, including VT Water Quality, VT Fish & Wildlife & VT Forest & Parks.
Before the state agreed to own the land, FZW, Friends of Green River Reservoir (FGRR) and The Trust for Public Land were asked to fund a three year management plan. While the property would be managed by Green River Reservoir State Park staff, the groups were asked to fund an additional person to do so. The management plan was written, and donations were collected by FZW and FGRR for a steward position. The state of Vermont accepted the Zack Woods property into the Green River Reservoir State Park and added the 393 acres to already existing 5,110 acres in 2013. This area now connects the Worcester Range with the Lowell Mountains.
Hyde Park, Wolcott
Forest Land, Land Protection, partnerships
With help from many groups, Zack Woods was protected and added its 393 acres of land to the Green River Reservoir State Park. This purchase secured outdoor recreation opportunities and the protection for future wildlife habitat. With the help from many private and public entities, Friends of Zack Woods were able to roads to prevent future erosion and runoff into ponds, and put a kiosk on the land hikers.
The Trust for Public Land
Friends of Green River Reservoir
Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
The Friends of Zack Woods
Morrisville Water and Light
The Judkins Family
U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board
Town of Wolcott
Town of Hyde Park
The Zack Woods Project became successful when The Trust for Public Land took over land negotiations, tax assessments, appraisals and other necessary details.
One challenge was that while one town in which the property was situated supported the project, the other town did not. The selectboard of Hyde Park voted not to support the effort due to tax ramifications. The planning board then became involved, offering full support. A volunteer effort to get enough signatures for a special town meeting was successful. The citizens at the special town meeting overwhelmingly approved the project.