One evening, back in the early days of mountain biking, I was riding one of the few mountain bike trails available in Stowe. I stopped for a moment on that steamy summer evening as the sun started to go down, listening to a hermit thrush, when I looked down over the village from the trail that would eventually be named Charlie’s. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if this could one day be a town park where everyone could come and experience the joy I felt riding through what was then known as the Cabral property.
Thanks to the efforts of Stowe’s collaborative community, including Stowe Land Trust, the town of Stowe, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Stowe Mountain Bike Club (now Stowe Trails Partnership) and the public, that hope eventually became a reality on May 30, 2012. Today Cady Hill Forest is one of Vermont’s most frequented multi-use trail networks and is managed by the volunteers and staff at Stowe Trails Partnership.
Tom Jackman, the recently retired Stowe town planner, told me that this conservation project was the most complex he’d ever worked on during his 19 years as planner. “It involved many stakeholders, several different parcels and property owners, and a history of Act 250 permits and conservation restrictions that had to be navigated. The one person who deserves the most credit for pulling it off was Heather Furman, the former executive director of Stowe Land Trust,” he said. “Without her tenacity and ability to work with the landowners and state officials, along with raising the necessary funding in a very short amount of time, it would not have happened.”
The property and 11-plus-mile trail network are now regularly used by bikers, dog walkers, runners, naturalists, snowshoers, birders and adaptive athletes.
The 320-acre Cady Hill Forest is comprised of several parcels previously owned by the Cabral Family (217-plus acres), the Hillman family of Golden Eagle Resort (41 acres) and the town-owned Macutchan Forest (60 acres). In the 1990s the late Ray Cabral, a developer and client of mine at the time, had big plans to develop his portion with dozens of homesites. In the meantime, he generously allowed for a handful of riders to use the few trails that had been cut — most notably Zog’s — but not to be publicized, since his priority was working through the years-long development permit process.
Around the same time, Rick Sokoloff began the formation of the Stowe Mountain Bike Club. Sokoloff received permission to develop some trails on the Macutchan Forest parcel. Thanks to the passion and determination to have additional and sanctioned trails to ride in our area, he and Hardy Avery — Hardy Haul is named for him — got to work.
“These were humble beginnings,” Sokoloff reminded me, but “it was a labor of love.”
And so, it all began.
Ultimately the trail network expanded, became more popular, and came to be known as The Town Loops. Fast forward to 2010, when Kim Cabral, Ray Cabral’s wife, decided to sell the family property. Not having achieved success selling on the open market, she generously agreed to collaborate with the Stowe community to preserve this jewel in the crown of the village of Stowe to retain its natural and recreational assets.
Thanks to her willingness, Stowe Land Trust rapidly launched a huge fundraising campaign to conserve what is now Cady Hill Forest. With a grant from VHCB of $350,000 and a Stowe-voter approved contribution of $288,000, the trust had a great start to reach the $1.56 million purchase price goal. The remainder flowed in from local businesses, Stowe Mountain Bike Club members, and the citizens of Stowe who all ardently supported this important initiative.
The land trust donated the property to Stowe and secured a conservation easement along with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
As we look back at this 10-year milestone, we are grateful to all those who dedicated their time and energy to preserving this exceptional property, rich with wildlife habitat, scenic viewsheds, wetlands and recreation opportunities.
There will be a weekend-long celebration July 29-31, hosted by Stowe Trails Partnership, Stowe Land Trust and Strawberry Hill Farm to commemorate this significant achievement. Mark your calendars.
Thank you for walking down memory lane with us. If you have a favorite memory about Cady Hill, we’d love to hear it. Email email@example.com, and we look forward to seeing you out on the trails.
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