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Middlebury College and Middlebury Area Land Trust collaborate to make new park possible

January 24, 2006

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Middlebury College has sold a 16-acre piece of land to the nonprofit Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT), which will use the property to create a new public park, Otter View Park, and three housing lots - two in Middlebury and one in Weybridge. Each of the lots is less than a half-acre in size, leaving 15 acres for park space. The land is located east of the corner of Weybridge Street and Pulp Mill Bridge Road, and straddles the Middlebury-Weybridge town line.

The idea to conserve the land began with a Middlebury College student project for an environmental studies class taught in the spring of 2001.  The college bought the land in 1948 and at one point considered using it for faculty housing.

From left to right: Gioia Kuss, executive director of MALT; Ronald D. Liebowitz, president of Middlebury College; Christopher Bray, MALT president and board chairman; Reg Spooner, Marge Nelson, Carol Spooner, park neighbors and MALT volunteers; Bill Roper, chair of OVP advisory council; Bob Huth, executive vice president and treasurer of Middlebury College; and Warren King, OVP fundraising committee co-chair

In 2003, MALT agreed to pay the college $317,000 for the land, a sum based on an appraisal that included the possibility of a moderate amount of development. MALT requested that the sale be delayed until it had raised enough funds to buy the property, and build and maintain the park. After asking for and receiving several extensions from the college that allowed MALT more time for fundraising, MALT also requested that the college reduce the price of the land by $67,000 to $250,000. The college agreed.

"The college has a long relationship with MALT, an organization that contributes a great deal to the local community," said Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz.  "Working with MALT enables the college to continue that contribution, and the results of our collaboration are all the more gratifying because the idea came from Middlebury students in our environmental studies program."

Gioia Kuss, executive director of MALT, added, "This park will be a wonderful resource for the community.  After several years of hard work, and the generous support of Middlebury College, it's finally becoming a reality."

According to Nan Jenks-Jay, the college's director of environmental affairs, all the students in her environmental studies senior seminar discussed the idea of conserving the land in a report titled "The Wood Property: An Investigation of Land Use."  For the project, the class divided into smaller groups, each of which studied different aspects of the property, from conducting a survey of the neighbors to investigating how local zoning and planning regulations applied to this land.

Jenks-Jay said, "The excellent work done by students in this senior seminar paved the way for MALT and the college to begin serious negotiations for this property. Specific recommendations made by students are ones that have become a reality. It is gratifying to see an academic endeavor by students, the college and MALT all come together over the future of this important parcel of land. A boardwalk plank for the Otter View Park will be engraved with the words 'Middlebury ES 401 students' to acknowledge the students' work."