Woodstock and Pomfret — (RealEstateRama) — This month, the Vermont Land Trust sold the 112-acre Gilbert’s Hill property along Route 12 to new owners Mary Margaret Sloan and Howard Krum. The land is now permanently protected for public recreation, historic preservation, and natural and scenic resources.
The hill was the site of the first ski tow in America, which was powered by a Model T Ford engine in January of 1934. It is still a popular destination for hikers and backcountry skiers. Each year, sixth graders at Prosper Valley School trek across the land to mark their graduation to middle school.
Former owners Al and Lucile Appel carried on the tradition of public access, as did their son and daughter-in-law, John and Jeannine Appel. When it came time to sell the land, the Appels were interested in seeing it conserved to honor John’s parents. This also presented a unique opportunity to secure a significant part of a future trail connecting the Appalachian Trail to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (MBRNHP).
“My parents would be so pleased to know that the property they so dearly loved and unselfishly shared with others will continue to be preserved and maintained the way they intended [it] to be,” said John.
The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) and the Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV) had several meetings and conversations with community members of Woodstock and Pomfret to gauge whether there was local enthusiasm to protect the property.
With an overwhelmingly positive response, a ‘Save Gilbert’s Hill’ committee of local residents formed to raise the $750,000 necessary for the project. They worked with VLT, PTV, MBRNHP, the Green Mountain Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Billings Park Commission, to secure funding and develop plans for the land.
Grettie Howe of Billings Farm & Museum is one committee member with a special family connection to Gilbert’s Hill: her father, Sherman Howe, was founder and president of Friends of Woodstock Winters and an early skier of Gilbert’s Hill.
“My Dad, Sherm, is so thrilled that the history and the property itself is in good hands,” said Grettie. “He always felt it was important to preserve all the history of the ski hill, and the many people involved, and what an important part it played in starting the whole Ski industry in Vermont.”
Though the land and much of the farmstead is permanently protected, the committee is still fundraising for several important components of the campaign. Funds are needed to stabilize some of the historic buildings, build a small trailhead parking area, and create interpretive materials and a kiosk. The goal is to engage the public with local history, including Woodstock’s extensive impact on the ski culture and legacy of Vermont.
Another key aspect of the campaign is to design and build segments of a trail that will eventually connect the Appalachian Trail and MBRNHP. The committee is still working to raise funds to make this happen.
Mary Margaret and Howard, the new owners, are avid outdoorspeople who greatly look forward to being the next stewards of the property. “With our family history of hiking, wildlife conservation, and historic preservation, we knew in an instant that this was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Howard. “We’re beyond excited to help preserve this incredibly special place for generations to come.”
Funding has come from more than 180 private grants and donations to date.