On the south end of town adjacent to the Park Lawn Cemetery is a 30 acre municipal forest called the "Y Woods." The town is looking at this resource and is calling for input from the community on its future. A public meeting is scheduled for March 9, at 4:00 pm to discuss the Y Woods, hear from the community, and gather input for the creation of a management plan. The meeting will be held at the multi purpose room on the third floor at the Fire Facility on River Street.
Specifically, the Town and its partners seek community input on goals and objectives to be addressed in a management plan. Issues to consider may include the reduction of invasive species, recreational uses, implementation of forest management activities, the improvement of public access, and continued use as an outdoor classroom.
This project represents a collaborative effort between the Town of Bennington Department of Public Works, the SW Tech Forestry Program, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation’s Bennington County Forester.
At the public meeting, county forester Cory Creagan and SW Tech Forestry Instructor Eric Bishop will present on the current state of the property and solicit feedback from the community on goals. The meeting will be recorded by CAT TV and the video will be made available online, along with the ability for citizens to comment, to accommodate those unable to attend the meeting in person. To comment, visit our Y Woods page.
The SW Tech Forestry program, in consultation with the County Forester, will then develop a draft forest management plan which they would then present to the community for review and comment at a future public meeting in the fall.
So why is the “Y” Woods called that? Old timers will probably remember it’s because the land was originally owned by the local YMCA. In its heyday back in the 1960s, it was used as a camp for local kids. Its natural setting close to town was a big asset, where “youngsters at the camp are almost as far away, in their own manner, as the Apollo 11 Astronauts” as a 1969 Banner article opined. Activities such as moccasin making and archery were part of the programs offered.
Student involvement at the Y Woods goes as far back as 1966, when students such as Edward Frechette from the shop program at “Benhi” helped build structures related to the summer camp program. Today, students from the SW Tech forestry program continue to use the forest as a "living classroom” to practice techniques ranging from safety practices to forest management, equipment maintenance and use, tree identification, and logging practices.
The Y Woods was sold to the town in 1972 after the closing of the local YMCA which collapsed into bankruptcy when it ran out of money while trying to construct the pool project at what was then known as Memorial Park — the location of our current Bennington Community Recreation Center. The purchase cost of $30,800 was primarily funded by a combination of federal and state grants totaling $26,180. The remaining $4,620 was raised through donations from local citizens and the Bennington Rotary club.
Since its purchase by the town, the land has reverted to a mostly wild and natural state which has endured for what is now decades. Remnants of the old YMCA camp slowly disappeared. Wildlife abounded. The only “official” use of the land over the years has been as an outdoor classroom for students learning about forestry as part of programs offered by the Career Development Center which later became SW Tech.
In the early 2000s, an effort was made to develop trails by local residents. Over the next 10-15 years these volunteers began a more sustained effort to develop trails through the area, including a trail map. Some of these efforts were frustrated when trails they worked on, which went through a portion of the woods owned by the Park Lawn Cemetery, were disrupted by logging. The logging was not done on town property, but the visual effect of the work impacted the Y woods as a whole and discouraged local residents.
The Town and its partners are eager to hear from residents in the area as well as the community as a whole as we envision a new future for this piece of municipal land. If you are unable to attend the in-person meeting on March 9, we encourage you to view and comment via the town website at BenningtonVT.org