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A private island in Brighton is now part of a state park

A wooded island surrounded by water. The shore is seen in the background.
Caleb Kenna / Vermont Land Trust
The 15-acre island in the middle of Island Pond is now a part of Brighton State Park. It's home to a red pine forest and is a breeding habitat for bald eagles and loons.

A 15-acre island in the Northeast Kingdom is now a part of Brighton State Park.

The acquisition was a joint effort between the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) and the Vermont Land Trust.

In May of 2023, FPR secured a contract to purchase the island. Through a grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and another from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the partnership raised 93% of the $1.1 million price tag. The remaining $76,000 was raised by donations from Brighton business owners and community members.

“It's been a long time in the making,” said FPR’s lead conservation manager Gannen Osborne. He said the department has been looking into the acquisition of this property for many years — some attempts dating back to the late ‘90s.

The addition of the property extends the current acreage of Brighton State Park, which hosts campsites, cabins and cottages to rent, and a beach with access to Island Pond.

“So this, the acquisition of the island, adds to the offerings of the state park, and the island will be accessible,” Osborne said. “So if somebody wanted to paddle out there and take a look, they can do that.“

Kerry O’Brien, the Northeast Kingdom project director for the Vermont Land Trust, said when the island was privately owned, it was a popular spot for boaters to enjoy. Now, its access to the public is protected.

“The island is such a scenic landmark and such an important part of the community that Vermont Land Trust was happy to play a role in protecting it,” she said. “And it’s a great start to the summer.”

In addition to acquiring the popular paddling destination, the interest in the property was rooted in conservation. The island is home to a red pine forest and is a breeding habitat for bald eagles and loons.

When the property went on the market, O’Brien said, the fate of the island’s natural resources was uncertain. Now, the land is protected by a conservation easement held by both the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

 “So, as this great natural resource in the community, we thought it was a great property to protect,” she said.

The island and three acres of lakeshore property will be maintained by FPR and are now open to the public.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Samantha Watson is a senior at the University of Vermont.
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