Who does the forest belong to?

Pictures from the red file

The teenagers, the forest, and the trees.

On August 24, 1938, three people (last names Harvey, Hunt, and Hubbard) deeded “about twenty acres of land” in a patch of forest to the STUDENTS (and the principal) of Rochester, VT.

Why do I care?

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Because I despise when people (in this case teenagers) are bullied by entities (in this case the school district and the State of Vermont) who possess power. The state and the Supervisory Union have crossed a line. These are our kids. This is our town. It’s land within our town limits.

This land belongs to Rochester students. It’s theirs. It does not belong to anyone but them. All nine of them. Yes. I said nine. There would have been more, but that drama is a story for another time.

Though it’s not theirs to list, the White River Valley Supervisory Union has already claimed the land as an asset in the budget. Next, they will attempt to transfer the deed. They have a lawyer “working on it.” This makes me uncomfortable.

Though the kids don’t have a lawyer, they have me and I have a big mouth. I won’t stand by and remain quiet.

I can’t.

Five or six years ago, a previous science teacher gave me a red folder with a copy of the deed, some maps, and photos inside it. He said something like this, “Someone needs to have this before I leave. I don’t know why, but I’m giving it to you. It belongs to the kids. Maybe you can use the forest or something. Take them out there every once in awhile.”

Then he moved on to another school and I stored the file.

Our school is just about gone. (Poof!) Things in our town have been stressful because many of our kids have had to travel to other places over mountains in all kinds of weather. In some cases, parents provide transportation. Our small town way of life is under attack and our kids are victims from EVERY angle.

Enough of my take on it. Let’s examine the deed.

Direct quote: “Said property shall be under the sole and exclusive control of the Principal of the Rochester High School and the students attending said High School; the use, income, benefits and profits from said land shall be for the benefits of said students of Rochester High School for such purposes as they may decide by a majority vote of said land…”

Furthermore: “If at any time hereafter the students and principal of said High School shall vote that they do not wish to have the use, benefit and control of said real estate, the officers of said Town School District shall reconvey their interest in said land to said Town of Rochester.”

It’s not that they don’t WISH to have the use. They have lost their school. Do you think the men who deeded the land had any idea there would be no school almost 100 years later?

It’s a no-brainer. The deed makes it clear. The students and principal have a right to vote, and tomorrow, May 23, 2018, those nine students are gathering for a final portrait.

They’ve had their last Rochester prom. They will have their last graduation on the park in June. They didn’t want to lose their High School, but it happened. There was nothing they could do about that.

However, they have a little bit of work to do to understand what’s happening. They can vote to donate it to the National Forest, perhaps. They can vote to give it back to the town, as suggested. Perhaps they can give it to the Nature Conservancy of Vermont. Each person involved has a chance to make his/her voice heard. To vote to do with it as he/she sees fit.

I can’t wait to find out what they decide to do with THEIR land. I for one, am so tired of watching the bullies make all the decisions. Now it’s the kids who hold the power.

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