KTA heavens bench

Today, the Kingdom Trail Association (KTA) and Vermont Land Trust announced a campaign to conserve 269 acres of land on Darling Ridge.

“We are thrilled to have an opportunity to secure this special site  for permanent public trail access and protection of some of the most beautiful land in the Kingdom,” said Abby Long, KTA Executive Director. “We are now reaching out to all who enjoy Kingdom Trails and want to help us preserve this landscape for future generations.”

Kingdom Trails is a network of 100+ miles of recreation trails on public and private lands in Burke, Lyndon, Kirby and East Haven, VT. These popular trails are a destination for mountain bikers, hikers, runners, Nordic skiers, fat bikers, and snowshoers—and a source for economic vitality in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

In September 2019, a key parcel in the heart of the trail system on Darling Hill Road in Lyndon, went on the market. The land, formerly owned by AOQ, LLC was at imminent risk of being purchased for subdivision and residential development that would have diminished the rural character of the ridge and placed the future of public access to the land at risk. Seeing this threat, the Kingdom Trail Association acted quickly to secure bridge financing to purchase the property and allow time to secure the funds needed for long-term ownership and conservation of the land. At the same time, KTA entered into a contract to purchase an adjoining 40 acre parcel and created a plan to work with the Vermont Land Trust to permanently protect the two properties from future development and ensure public access to the land in perpetuity.

Over seven miles of trails in the KT network and a one-mile segment of a VAST trail, traverse this property, extending through farm fields, descending to the East Branch of the Passumpsic River. The property’s trails lead to "Heaven's Bench,” a grassy knoll and iconic destination offering panoramic views across the Northeast Kingdom. With streams, wetlands and forests, the land provides wildlife habitat and contributes to clean air and water, while contributing to the unique, rural character of Darling Hill Ridge.

With a total funding need of $671,305 for the purchase and conservation of the two properties, Kingdom Trails is pleased to have secured a $150,000 grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The project has already received $291,433 in pledges and donations, including $3,813 donated by Lawson’s Finest Liquids with its release of Kingdom Trails IPA. A second release of this limited edition beer was released last week. Now, KTA in concert with the Vermont Land Trust, is teaming up to raise the remaining $229,872 needed to complete the project.

“We never imagined that we would be launching a fundraising campaign during a global pandemic and recognize the uncertainty and financial hardship communities across the NEK, Vermont and beyond continue to face,” said Tabitha Bowling, Treasurer of the Board of Directors and member of the Campaign Committee. “We also see that public access to the outdoors and recreation are needed more now, than ever. The Kingdom Trails truly provide refuge: a way for people to disconnect from Zoom screens or frontline jobs, safely get outside, get “lost” on a ride or run, and take care of mind, body and spirit. It is hard to put a value on that and we will be grateful for any measure of support—large, small or symbolic—for this campaign.”

For more information, or to make a donation to help the Kingdom Trail Association and Vermont Land Trust ensure that these 269 acres on Darling Hill in Lyndon, Vermont remain undeveloped and open to the public, visit vlt.org/darlingridge.