An effort to preserve 22.5 acres of land just off the Randolph exit of Interstate 89 has just under a month to finish raising $1 million.
Organizers say they’ve raised $430,000 to date to preserve the Exit 4 land.
“We’re really pleased,” says Paul Bruhn, executive director of Preservation Trust of Vermont. Bruhn acknowledges that it will be a challenge to meet the deadline.
“I think we have a real path to our goal,” he says. “Getting there will not be easy. There are a lot of great causes in Vermont. We think this is one of them.”
Bruhn says the money has come from many small individual donors, along with a handful of large commitments in the range of $50,000 to $100,000.
Last month, conservation groups announced an agreement to purchase 149 acres that includes high-quality agricultural land at Exit 4 from developer Jesse Sammis, who had proposed a massive multi-use project there. The land was purchased by the Montpelier-based Castanea Foundation.
Preservation Trust was given the opportunity to purchase an additional 22.5-acre parcel for $1 million, if the money is raised by June 15. At the time of the announcement, Bruhn said the group had already received pledges of $150,000.
Bruhn estimates more than 200 donations have been received so far. He is coordinating efforts to solicit large donations.
“A lot of this involves putting requests out and giving people an opportunity and time to consider the requests,” he says.
Bruhn says Preservation Trust, Vermont Natural Resources Council and Conservation Law Foundation are also reaching out to supporters and members.
On the local level, the group Exit 4 Open Space is soliciting contributions from Randolph area residents.
The group is sending out letters and planning a number of fundraising events in coming weeks, according to Marjorie Ryerson of Randolph.
“We’ll just keep working until the final hour, which is 5 p.m. on [June] 15,” says Ryerson.
She says the land purchase will accomplish a number of goals.
"This isn't just about how pretty it is to look out over that land and to honor the long tradition of farmland in countryside with strong villages," Ryerson says. "This is also looking out for generations to come that will be dependent on growing their food here."
At last month's announcement, Sammis said he would pursue building a hotel on the land if the deadline isn't met.
Donations are tax-deductible and will be returned if the goal is not met. They can be made online through Preservation Trust of Vermont or Exit 4 Open Space. Checks can also be sent to Preservation Trust of Vermont, 104 Church St, Burlington VT 05401.