Fundraising efforts help conserve Haystack summit
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | March 04,2013
PAWLET — Susan Sargent has called the top of Haystack Mountain the “crown jewel” because of its 360-degree views into the Mettowee Valley.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Sargent and the Friends of Haystack nonprofit organization, hikers will be able to appreciate the various trails and views from the summit without worry that access could be closed off or that it could be developed down the line.
The Friends of Haystack recently announced they and the greater Pawlet community rallied together to raise more than $130,000 to purchase more than 65.5 acres of land on the mountain’s summit.
“It’s really exciting, starting out of the blue like we did,” said Sargent, who is the nonprofit’s president.
The nonprofit organization based in Pawlet was created by a group of hikers and conservationists in late 2011 after learning someone actually owned the property. The group ultimately decided to become the stewards of the property and approached owner David Barrow of St. Albans.
Barrow’s family had owned the summit at Haystack for several generations and had no intention of selling it. But they changed their minds and gave the group until Dec. 31, 2012, to come up with the money. And they did.
“I am delighted to see the depth of support and how much the mountaintop means to the local community,” said Barrow in a statement. “Since it has been in our family for generations, I am glad it is going to be so appreciated and used by so many as it has been over many years.”
Friends of Haystack raised more than $140,000 solely through private donations from residents and concerned citizens. Sargent said they received several sizable donations, but also small amounts from people who knew it was important to save the mountain from any possible development.
“They just really cared,” she said.
Sargent, who had been on several conservation boards in the state, said the fundraising campaign was the easiest she had ever done because everyone who donated was connected to Haystack in one way or another.
“Everybody has a story about Haystack,” she said.
With this purchase, the summit now joins the more than 900 acres around Haystack that are owned or under conservation easements by the Vermont Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy.
Sargent said the extra money raised will be used to kick-start some projects to repair some of the trails up to the summit which have not been worked on for years. They have also applied for a series of grants to further improve trails.
“Not big grants, but to get us off on the right foot,” she said. “It will not be major trail cutting, just slightly redoing the trails.”
They will be adding markings along the trails so hikers know where they are and where they can go.
“It’s for everyone,” Sargent said. “Go up. Take a hike. It’s only about an hour up.”
Friends of Haystack is a 501(c)(3) organization focused on conservation in the Pawlet area. Its primary goal is to protect the mountain, allowing for public access for recreation, and to preserve rare habitats for a numbers of rare species such as the peregrine falcon.
To make donations, go to www.friendsofhaystack.org, or mail donations to Friends of Haystack, PO Box 201, Pawlet, VT, 05761.