In Memorandum: Vermont State Parks Inherit Beauty of Taconic Mountains Ramble
Long before he built a Japanese garden in the shadow of Hubbardton's Mount Zion, documentary filmmaker and author Carson "Kit" Davidson, lived with his wife, Mickie, a children's book author, in the heart of Greenwich Village. "This was in the 1960s," said Davidson, "back when real people could still afford that."
Both he and Mickie loved the downtown's creative energy. But they wanted a summer escape, a few acres north of the city. The couple had a specific vision for their land, one not easily fulfilled until a fortuitous trip to Vermont in November of 1966 after five years of searching.
"Climb on the midnight bus - I think I've found it," said Kit Davidson in a phone call to his wife after a visit to a 420-acre property in Hubbardton owned by a cow farmer named Clayton Calvin. At $69 an acre, the Davidsons took the plunge and bought the farm, commuting there on weekends or vacations.
Davidson valued preservation of natural beauty for public enjoyment over subdivision, development and personal profit. Over the next 46 years, Davidson invested heart and soul into the land, blazing trails, preserving wildflower meadows and building a Japanese garden. He encouraged conservation, public access and community involvement by opening his land to any who wished to enjoy it. Kit's vision was enabled by his legal counsel Bill Meub and Nancy Livak, and his trusted friend, Ellen Oppenheimer. In concert, they brought this land to the attention of the State of Vermont. The current land manager, Alyssa Bennett, has enhanced the trails and garden for the public's enjoyment. Beautiful views, hiking, cross-country skiing and a place to take a quiet moment at the garden gives this land a unique experience.
Kit leaves his daughter, Cherie Sabatine, the deep gratitude of his many friends, and the legacy of his vision and generosity. We are all so privileged to have his enduring example. A dedication and celebration of Kit and Mickie Davidson's gift will be held at a later date.
Today, the Carson Davidson Revocable Trust entrusts roughly over 400 acres of Davidson's property to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation as Vermont's newest state park. As per Davidson's wishes, the Taconic Mountains Ramble will be maintained by the department and remain open to the public in perpetuity. An additional monetary donation from the Davidson estate to Vermont Parks Forever will fund a park manager, trail repairs, garden maintenance and a long-term management plan. The Davidsons' vision and generosity are their legacy to all who experience this gift.
"The department and our stewardship team recognize how important the garden, trails and open access to the land are to the Davidsons," said Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. "We are honored to continue these traditions in this special place."
The Davidson property hosts a mix of both open land and beautiful northern hardwood forest, a signature mix of maple, birch, beech and ash, that provide some of the brilliance of Vermont's famous fall colors. But the beauty of the property goes far beyond its foliage. From fern groves to white pines and pastures to steep cliffs and waterfalls, this land abounds with rich and varied ecologic communities. Responsible recreation use will continue in concert with the ongoing conservation of the property's many important natural resources.
With the formal transfer of the property to the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Davidson, who passed gently in his sleep at 92 years old, knew his vision of public enjoyment of the estate will last longer than his own tenure on the land. In the short term, the simple rules remain - no overnight stays, no smoking and no fires. Over the long term, public use of the property will be guided by a comprehensive management plan written by the department with input from the public. With the forethought of the Davidsons' gift, the department can further its mission to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors.
Published in Rutland Herald on Oct. 5, 2016.