Shown here is the rendering for the planned Ascutney Outdoors Center. (Image Provided by Steve Crihfield)
By George Calver, Standard Correspondent
WEST WINDSOR – What a difference four years can make when a community bands together to reach a common goal. Back in 2014, Mt. Ascutney was in bankruptcy, the ski hill was closed, and its main chairlift had been sold.
Uncertainty surrounded the former resort lands.
But Glenn Seward, then-Chair of the Select Board, with the backing of town officials, led the effort to organize the town’s purchase of 490 acres of land for conservation and recreational use. When that fell into place, the purchased land, combined with the Town Forest, gave the town a total of 1,582 acres for that purpose.
Then, members of the community stepped up in 2015 to found Ascutney Outdoors (AO) as a nonprofit to manage the land along the guidelines established by the Upper Valley Land Trust, and since then things have been happening. First, it was a rope tow, and restoration of a warming hut. Then when it appeared that a setback might occur when the former base lodge burned down, the town continued to turn lemons into lemonade. It acquired the burned-down site for $1, knowing well that underground fuel storage tanks would need to be removed and that asbestos and other pollutants would have to be removed before anything further could be done with the site.
And so, in 2016, the town bit the bullet, and spent the money for asbestos remediation, tank and polluted soil removal. Demolition was also started to prepare the old foundation for a new 2,500-square-foot building: the Ascutney Outdoors Center.
With the completion of this phase, AO then started working on the design of the Center to be used for community events and gatherings, as well as a base for its four-season recreational activities.
The Board of AO figured that they would need $730,000 to build the center and to support proposed projects such as a tube park, and set about to raise money during what has been described as the “quiet phase” of a capital fundraising campaign called” Building for our Community.”
Board Chair Steve Crihfield said, “We have had a lot of support from the community and foundations, and we have ended the ‘private phase’ – to date we have raised just over $580,000 towards our goal of $730,000.”
More information is at ascutneyoutdoors.org
This article first appeared in the August 10, 2017 edition of the Vermont Standard.