This year, our Town Meeting Day ballot will ask us to vote to add $35,000 to the Town’s Open Space Conservation Fund (OSF), a request that adds only $2 per $100,000 assessed property value to our tax bill. For the average Shelburne homeowner, this request amounts to less than a one-day admission to a Vermont State Park for two adults.
Since 1994, the OSF, which is essentially our savings account for conservation of Shelburne’s natural resource riches, has enabled the town to protect over 900 acres of significant forest and water resources, wildlife corridors and prime agricultural land that protect our environment and add to the quality of life we all value. We also know that one of our greatest environmental challenges today, living as we do on the shores of Lake Champlain, is stormwater mitigation and water quality protection. Protecting our forests and streams helps achieve both. Laplatte River Park and the Southern Laplatte Nature Park with their wonderful trails, Bread and Butter Farm that maintains Shelburne’s rich agricultural heritage and the boat launch on Route 7 at Webster Road are just a few of the properties the OSF has helped protect that Shelburne residents can enjoy every day.
For those who may not be familiar with how the OSF works, Shelburne Natural Resources Committee (SNRCC), working with willing landowners and organizations like the Vermont Land Trust, TNC, and the Lake Champlain Land Trust applies the OSF monies to leverage far greater contributions from these third party organizations to enable the protections we seek in perpetuity. The OSF is structured as a savings account; any monies not spent in a given year accrue to the Fund, earning interest until a worthy project comes to fruition and allows us to act nimbly without the burden and costs imposed by bonding and ongoing interest payments. When a project finally becomes available (and sometimes they take years to come to fruition while other times we must act quickly) SNRCC works with the landowner/conservation partner to verify the appraised value and resource value and makes a recommendation to the Select Board who ultimately authorize the allocation from the OSF.
As a longtime member of SNRCC, I know that the OSF protects what cannot be replaced; it maintains and enhances our quality of life and it is what town voters have consistently supported since the OSF was established in the early 1990s. I am convinced that voting “yes” on the OSF ballot item is a worthwhile and responsible vote and I hope you’ll agree and cast a positive vote with me on March 4.
Chair, Shelburne Natural Resources and Conservation Commission