Business & Economy

Kingdom Trails buys, conserves former Quiros property in Lyndon

Two bikers stop at Darling Ridge, part of the Kingdom Trails network. Courtesy photo

The Kingdom Trail Association has bought and conserved more than 270 acres of land in Lyndon — the bulk of which belonged to former Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros — in a deal that will secure several miles of trails.

“Owning this land allows us to sustain the trails on one of the most visible and visited areas of the network,” executive director Abby Long said in a press release, “and also be a steward of the river, forests and farmland which are vital to the future health of the Northeast Kingdom.”

The property, which cost more than $1 million, stretches from Darling Hill Road to the east branch of the Passumpsic River. One of the seven trails on the land leads to Heaven’s Bench, a popular stop in the trail network’s system with a view of Burke Mountain.

Long said the nonprofit bought most of the property in February, after hearing rumors that developers planned to buy and build on the land. 

The deal involved 231 acres owned by Quiros, whose assets have been managed since 2016 by Michael Goldberg, a court-appointed receiver. That year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil action against Quiros linked to EB-5-financed projects he led in Vermont. The Florida businessman is awaiting sentencing on federal fraud charges related to the projects.

Kingdom Trail Association, commonly called Kingdom Trails, also bought an adjacent 40 acres from two other landowners — making for a combined 271-acre stretch of land.

The trail group decided to partner with the Vermont Land Trust and in the spring began seeking grants to pay for a conservation easement, which would limit any future development on the property. Fundraising finished Dec. 18, Long said, after a public campaign that started in the summer.

“Clearly, they were passionate about this project, and we are so grateful,” Long said of donors. “We totaled over 740 individual donations from local businesses and community members.”

Abby White, a spokesperson for the Vermont Land Trust, said the effort is the second conservation project the group has worked on with Kingdom Trails. 

“So it's an add-on to existing conserved land and trails,” White said. 

Of the level of support for the effort, White added, “I think it’s a real testament to the community Kingdom Trails has created, and it is also very promising from a recreation and tourism standpoint.”

Along with the 740 contributors to fundraising, Kingdom Trails received a $150,000 grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and an anonymous donation of the same amount. 

Long, the trail group director, said she believes the unique circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic may have fueled the public’s desire to conserve the land. 

“I think outdoor recreation and outdoor space, this year especially, has just become so valuable and important for people's physical and mental well being,” she said. “So people really saw the value in conserving and protecting this property.”

The conservation easement will be held by the land trust and housing board. Long said the trail group, as the new property owner, plans to work with the land trust on a forest-management plan.

A map of the Darling Ridge Conservation Trails, part of Kingdom Trails. Courtesy photo

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Justin Trombly

About Justin

Justin Trombly covers the Northeast Kingdom for VTDigger. Before coming to Vermont, he handled breaking news, wrote features and worked on investigations at the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in Florida. He grew up across Lake Champlain in upstate New York, where he worked for The Buffalo News, the Glens Falls Post-Star and the Plattsburgh Press Republican. He studied English and political science at the University of Rochester.

Email: [email protected]

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