Perhaps you have heard of the St. Albans Town Forest? Maybe all that you know is that there is land up on French Hill that belongs to the town. Did you know that it is public land and it is for the residents? It’s a hidden oasis on the east side of town that offers 162 acres of unfragmented forest for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and bird watching. The original land was purchased in 1953, with expansions in 1989 and 1991.
As a state, Vermont is unique in it’s tradition of Town Forests. In 1915, legislation was put into place to enable towns throughout the state to own and manage land purely for the public’s benefit. For those interested, they will find a peaceful place for solitude and exploration. The trails that are there, will bring a hiker past a scenic beaver pond and rocky outcroppings.
Many of the trails that you see were built by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp last summer. This summer, the crew will be back for three weeks to build new trails and clean up existing ones. The goal is to create a loop trail that can be explored by local hikers. The Town is also working with Project Soar to build new signs to mark the trails and location of the park. These projects have been funded by a grant from the Vermont Department of Parks, Forests and Recreation.
The Town Forest is quite popular with the migratory songbirds birds that use the habitat each year. Through the program, Foresters for the Birds, St. Albans Town has partnered with Audubon Vermont and the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation to maintain the forest as a breeding habitat for birds, while managing timber in a sustainable way. The Town Forest is currently a demonstration site for the Migratory Songbird habitat enhancement. The birds protected by this project include Black-throated Blue Warbler, Eastern Wood Peewee, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Wood thrush, and Veery.
To get to the Town Forest, head up French Hill Road for 2.3 miles, turn left onto Forest Drive, travel ¼ mile until you see the clearing for parking. Dogs are allowed, but they should be kept on a leash. Picnic tables are available in the summer.