The Nature Museum Is Expanding!

By Laurie Danforth, Board President

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Are you aware that Vermont is the second greyest state in America, just slightly behind Maine? Vermont is blessed with miles of trails, but few accessible outdoor options for people with ambulatory or visual challenges.  Here at The Nature Museum (TNM) we have become aware of the increase in visitors who need accessibility support. We have been dreaming of addressing that need by providing a meandering trail amidst native plantings of trees, shrubs, and perennials which would be appropriate for all people. A trail with whimsical elements, and educational opportunities, and inviting for wildlife and all ages whether in a stroller or a wheelchair.  

A year ago I shared The Nature Museum’s dream with Mary Hudson. Mary and her husband, Bill Chapman, have been the museum’s neighbors since TNM purchased the Grange building in the late ‘90’s.   Mary was instantly fascinated by the idea and proceeded to work tirelessly to help make the first and most important step of our dream come true: the land.   

Today I am thrilled to publicly announce that the Chapman Family has donated 3.5 acres to The Nature Museum: a parcel of land between our building and the Windham Foundation’s goat barn. This historic gift substantially increases our “outdoor classroom” and will enable us to fulfill our mission of connecting people to nature in a much more inclusive way.  We are deeply grateful to the Chapman Family, including Bill Chapman, Jr., and Shannon Beaty, who welcomed the idea of gifting the land to TNM, seeing it as a way of continuing the Chapman family’s history in Grafton.

Mary Hudson has this to say about her family’s generous donation:

It was, in some ways, an easy decision to transfer 3.5 acres of our land to The Nature Museum because it corresponded so well with our family’s values.  Laurie Danforth shared with me her ideas about adding our land to the Museum’s holdings, paving the way for substantially expanding the scope of the Museum’s nature programs.  This prospect aligned closely with my own ideas about future use of our land, and a deal was born. This gift of land honors Bill’s devotion to Vermont and furthers my own interest in protecting the natural environment.

Board member Rick Cowan explains the significance of this substantial addition of land.  “The Chapman Meadow gift is transformative for The Nature Museum (TNM).  By allowing TNM to expand beyond our building’s modest footprint, it enables us to create a dramatic yet accessible nature trail that will make us an even more exciting destination for nature lovers of all ages.”    

The Chapman Meadow is not only a gift to The Nature Museum, but also a future benefit to all who live in and visit our hometown.  We hope that it will be a destination for residents of Grafton as well as visitors from far and wide.  As we move ahead, we look forward to sharing the process with everyone who cares about creating broader opportunities to experience the beauty and wonder of Vermont’s natural world right here in the heart of Grafton.  We hope that you will join with us as we take the next steps to make our dream a reality.