The state has added 164 acres to Alburgh Dunes State Park, protecting 4,800 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline in the process, The Nature Conservancy and the state’s Agency of Natural Resources announced on Tuesday.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the property for $1.1 million from a private landowner in January 2021, and has since been working with the state to transfer ownership. The Conservancy maintains a conservation easement on the property.
First created in 1996, Alburgh Dunes State Park now totals 789 acres. It’s home to 20-foot-tall exposed shale bluffs, cedar pine forests and big views of the Green Mountains and Adirondacks.
“Alburgh Dunes State Park is a special place and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation is proud and excited to expand the park and its offerings,” said Michael Snyder, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation. “The Alburgh Bluffs property adds opportunities for the public to experience the splendor of Lake Champlain, while also protecting critical habitats and water quality.”
While some parts of the property include upland forests and fields, around half of the acreage is made up of wetlands, which ducks and shorebirds use while migrating through the Champlain Valley. The property hosts 16 natural communities and 25 rare or endangered species, according to state officials and The Nature Conservancy.
Some of those species make their home on the park’s sand dunes — a rare feature on Lake Champlain. The dunes have been degraded over time due to beach sand mining, but their protection in the 1990s prevented the activity and encouraged native species to bounce back. Rare dune plants such as beach pea and Champlain beach grass have rebounded, according to state and conservancy officials.
“It's really unique. We're used to our rich hardwood, northern forests — that's the landscape we're really familiar with in Vermont,” said Eve Frankel, director of communications for Vermont’s chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “This is so different.”
The park includes bike and pedestrian paths along with public access to a sand beach on Lake Champlain. Around 20,000 people visit the park each year.
“The expansion brings increased recreational opportunities for our local residents, will attract additional tourists to the area, and will help ensure this treasured asset thrives for generations to come,” Josie Henry, chair of the Alburgh selectboard, said in a statement.
The Nature Conservancy has helped Vermont purchase and conserve around 25% of its state lands — including wildlife management areas, state parks and state forests. Funding for parcels typically comes from private donors, federal funds and organizations such as the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Frankel said.
While The Nature Conservancy is the second largest private landowner in the state, with 32,000 acres, the organization does not have the capacity to continue expanding that footprint, she said. The Nature Conservancy and the state formed a partnership so that the state can consistently manage the land and expand public access.
“It's breathtaking,” Frankel said. “Sometimes it's hard, when we're in our own corners of Vermont, to say, ‘I'm gonna drive up to Alburgh,’ but it is stunningly beautiful. It is a completely different perspective of being on Lake Champlain.”
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