Community Forests

by | Apr 18, 2024 | Education, Environment

Catamount Community Forest in Burlington, Vermont

As we prepare our challenge content for Project Green Challenge 2024, we’re enlisting the support of our brilliant Spring Interns to identify and research key topics that we haven’t touched on in years past. For this year’s forests challenge, we had Tate Peterson look into community forests and write about a fascinating case study. Read on to see what he learned. 

Just outside of the bustling metropolis of Burlington, Vermont, there exists a community forest known as the Catamount Community Forest. Established in 2019, this community forest closely dodged large-scale development plans from the rapidly developing city of Burlington. Over 2 million dollars were contributed to this forestland to maintain its 383 acres of natural landscape. It now houses over 20 miles of trails that are used for hiking, running, walking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding. Parts of some trails have even been made wheelchair accessible! Annual summer camp programming provides over 400 campers with outdoor recreational activities. Other educational programs have also been developed; in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, nature camps and other outdoor activities were put in place to complement remote learning.

The Catamount Community Forest now has over 20,000 visitors annually because of the forestland access it offers. This brings in almost 1 million dollars annually to the park, supplying money to local businesses, residents, and the state. Lastly, this community forest’s role as a mature forest allows it to act as a filter for rain and snow precipitation- ensuring clean water flow into the Winooski River which supplies over 145,000 residents from Quebec to New York with drinking water. 

Catamount Community Forest remains a perfect example of how the maintenance and protection of forests through the implementation of community forests has the potential to not only uplift communities, but provide economic and environmental safeguard in these communities as well. Community forests are a powerful way to cultivate healthier, more equitable, and resilient communities.


As time continues, we begin to deepen our understanding of the ways in which community forests act as stakeholders to healthy, flourishing communities through initiatives like cultural heritage, recreation, tourism, education, and other forest-based services or products. They empower the communities around them through the beauty and satisfaction of exposure to natural environments. They also work to promote sustainability and equity within their communities in their roles as environmental and economic development tools. Forestlands attract residents, visitors, and businesses to their areas – working to strengthen local economies. Furthermore, forestlands take part in cleaning the air we breathe as well as protecting water supplies and wildlife habitats. They are home to so many diverse species of animals and plants that both people and the environment rely on. The benefits provided by community forests make them lifelines for recreational, physical, spiritual, and mental satisfaction. 

Interested in learning more?
We devote a day of Project Green Challenge to the theme of forests, as there is so much to dive into on that topic. Sign up for PGC 2024 to learn more on that and beyond!

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