WILLSBORO — The Nature Conservancy has bought 11 more acres in Willsboro in a transaction that gives new downtown access to the Boquet Nature Preserve.
It also made it possible for Makers Guild Inc., a new nonprofit, to acquire the former IGA building.
The combination, said Willsboro Town Supervisor Shaun Gillilland, has brought a “tremendous transformation of our village center.
“A new and vibrant Willsboro Makerspace in what was a blighted commercial building and parking lot is a positive and optimistic step forward for our town,” he said in a press release.
“Great things happen when we all pull together for common good.”
Ahead of the purchase, the conservancy worked with the landowner — a commercial real-estate broker — and the town’s Zoning Board to subdivide an 11-acre tract into two parcels.
That allowed for concurrent acquisitions that will revitalize the town’s main travel corridor, a press release from the conservancy said.
“The conservancy’s purchase expands the size of its popular Boquet River Nature Preserve to 120 acres and secures a high-visibility area off State Route 22,” the release said.
That preserve now extends from the Boquet River bank to the main road and features a variety of habitats and trails providing access for fishing, hiking, trail running and skiing.
The acquisition of the property will also allow the conservancy to establish a new trailhead/parking area and connect a path to the interior trail network, including Tim’s Trail, which is the second-longest accessibility trail of its kind in the Adirondack Park.
The Nature Conservancy has granted the parcel that holds the building to the Makers Guild.
Acquiring it is critical, the release said, to the group’s plan to repurpose the vacant grocery store as a community-based “makerspace.”
Often described as “a community center with tools,” a makerspace is a place where people can gather to share ideas and resources to create, invent and learn.
“The makerspace in Willsboro will be rooted in arts and innovation with an emphasis on environmental stewardship,” the release said.
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.
“Healthy communities are directly tied to healthy environments and a strong sense of place,” Peg Olsen, director of the conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, said in the release.
“The value of this project vastly exceeds its size in acres. It symbolizes the growing energy around the Adirondacks to capitalize on the beauty of our natural world while also tapping the creative spirit of its people.
“We are proud to count the Makers Guild among our downtown neighbors and look forward to seeing them grow and flourish.”
Beverly Eichenlaub, president of Makers Guild Inc., called the transformation of the former store “an amazing opportunity to cultivate collaboration and creativity in our rural community through arts, technology and innovation.
“The facility will feature artisan workshops outfitted with cutting-edge tools, educational opportunities, exhibits, events and a Makers-In-Residence program,” she said in a press release.
“We are excited by the depth of community interest, impressed with the town’s leadership and grateful for the Nature Conservancy’s generosity in support of this project.”
“We applaud the Nature Conservancy for taking a leadership role in this project,” said Jake Vennie-Vollrath, regional advocacy coordinator.
“Makerspaces are important community assets, and we are excited to see this develop with the protection of the adjacent forest. This is a forward-thinking, sustainable solution to utilizing vacant structures that will benefit the Town of Willsboro well into the future.”
The Nature Conservancy’s 120-acre preserve protects more than a half-mile of shoreline on the Boquet River, which is 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 2 miles of intact shoreline above the mouth of the river.
“The river provides vital 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,” the release said.
Learn more at www.nature.org/adirondacks or follow @AdirondackTNC on Twitter.