April 23, 2013

The Lepine sisters live on a dairy farm in Morristown’s Mud City. They’ve farmed there since the 1930s, when their Québécois parents came to Vermont looking for a better way of life. Over the years, they purchased adjacent property, until the farm totaled 1,100 acres. One 47-acre wooded parcel in Sterling Valley is where, as children, the four sisters—Gertrude, Jeannette, Marie, and Therese—played in Sterling Brook. That parcel is now conserved with the Stowe Land Trust. Other conservation organizations hold easements on the rest of the Lepine property.

“All the land we have has been conserved and it has made a huge difference in Mud City. From our house on Mud City Loop we see Belvidere, Sterling, and Elmore Mountains. It’s a wonderful panorama,” says Gert. “If we had kids to take over the farm, we might have made different decisions. But we don’t, and we thought it would be best to conserve the land so it will be here like this forever.”

In 1995, Johannes von Trapp donated a conservation easement on 1,100 acres at Trapp Family Lodge to the Stowe Land Trust. “I decided to donate it so I could stop thinking about developing it, and if I wasn’t going to develop it, I didn’t want anyone else to,” says von Trapp. The conservation easement, one of the largest on record in Vermont, preserves the land’s ecological integrity and the right of public recreational access. It also restricts development.

A decade later von Trapp let Stowe residents know he was considering developing a 513-acre parcel in Adams Camp, à la Robinson Springs, one of Stowe’s tonier addresses. When word got out, SLT stepped in to purchase the development rights. The price tag was $1.75 million. “It made financial sense to sell the development rights, and considering what happened with the economy, I’m glad I did not try to develop it,” says von Trapp. “I’ve known that land for a long time. I worked on it as a logger and I liked the idea of keeping it the same.”

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