---- — WILLSBORO — Dick and Leanna DeNeale have donated a conservation easement to Champlain Area Trails (CATS) that conserves their 319-acre property on Route 22 between Essex and Willsboro.
It was a lengthy, complicated transaction that fulfills their long-held dream of conserving their forest, protecting clean water and ensuring the land stays in farming, according to a news release from CATS.
The easement also provides for a hiking and skiing trail that will showcase the forest and be part of a trail that CATS envisions linking Willsboro to Essex.
CONTINUITY OF PURPOSE
The property is in an area called the Essex Highlands, which is the first ridge people see when traveling to New York on the Essex ferry on Lake Champlain.
“I first talked with the DeNeales about an easement in 2005, so it is great to see this finally happen,” CATS Executive Director Chris Maron said in a news release.
“I enjoyed working with them and with Sunset Farm, the neighboring certified-organic-beef operation which purchased their southern fields. This project reinforces the idea of ‘continuity of purpose over time,’ which guides our work at CATS.”
Mrs. DeNeale said that when they bought the property, years ago, they wanted to be sure it stayed “open and available for farming — that it would always grow crops and not turn into a housing development. We are so happy to work with CATS to fulfill our dream.”
Mr. Deneale said they are pleased that a trail will allow others to walk through the woods and see the trees and wildlife.
The agreement promotes sustainable farming and forestry practices, protects clean water and restricts land uses. Maron noted that the donation qualifies the DeNeales for income-tax deductions and property-tax benefits.
The project advances goals identified in the new Willsboro Comprehensive Land Use Plan to preserve farmland, encourage agricultural use of the land and require practices that reduce soil erosion and protect clean water.
It also promotes the goals of conserving woodlands, wetlands, open space and scenic vistas while providing a trail for outdoor recreation.
Maron said CATS will begin planning for the hiking trail this month, with the goal of opening it by the summer.
“We’ll have some preview hikes for people to see how great this new trail will be and hopefully have it ready to open on National Trails Day, June 1. It will be a wonderful addition to the network of trails we are developing to link our communities.”
For more information on the nonprofit conservation organization, call 962-2287 or visit www.champlain