The Nature Conservancy purchased an additional 10 acres in Willsboro, structuring the transaction to protect forestland, enhance outdoor recreation, and make it possible for Makers Guild Inc., a new nonprofit, to acquire a former grocery store building.
In advance of the purchase, the Conservancy worked with the landowner — a commercial real estate broker — and the town zoning board to subdivide an 11-acre tract into two parcels, allowing for continued development in the town’s main travel corridor.
The Conservancy’s purchase expands the size of the Boquet River Nature Preserve to 120 acres, including a high visibility area off State Route 22. The preserve now extends from the shore of the Boquet River to the main road and features a variety of habitats and trails that provide access for fishing, hiking, trail running, and skiing. The acquisition is expected to provide a new trailhead and parking area connected by a trail to the interior trail network.
The Nature Conservancy has granted the building parcel to the Makers Guild. Acquisition of the property is part of the group’s plan to re-purpose the vacant grocery store as a community-based “maker space.” Often described as “a community center with tools,” a maker space is a place where people can gather to share ideas and resources to create, invent and learn. To survey the community’s interests and raise awareness for the project, Makers Guild hosted two community workshops last summer and several “Fix-it Day” events at the neighboring hardware store.
The Boquet River Nature Preserve includes more than a half-mile of shoreline on the Boquet River, believed to be the most intact major tributary emptying into Lake Champlain. The Conservancy, over many years and in partnership with the town and private landowners, has protected nearly the entire two miles of intact shoreline above the mouth of the river. The river provides spawning habitat for salmon and its floodplain forests protect water quality and allow high waters to ebb and flow naturally during spring melt and heavy rain.
There are currently two points of access to the preserve; the Conservancy anticipates the new parking area and trail segment to be completed by 2020, adding to recent investments in major trail upgrades completed by professional trail builders in the past three years.
The River Trail starts from the parking area at the town boat launch at the end of Gilliland Lane. This footpath follows the river’s shoreline, offers scenic views, and provides fishing access. It goes through an interesting floodplain forest with sycamore trees that are more than 200 years old.
Tim’s Trail starts from a parking area behind the library and the former school building transformed into an assisted living facility. Named in honor of Tim Barnett, a former director of The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, its compacted stone surface, width, and minimal gradient meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and is suitable for wheelchairs, mobility walkers, and children’s strollers.
Two interior connector trails — natural dirt paths with uneven terrain — link the River Trail and Tim’s Trail.
Photo of the vacant store on State Route 22 in Willsboro that will be transformed into a maker space by John DiGiacomo.