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Essex trails

Champlain Area Trails seeks to create the Essex Quarry Nature Park by preserving the 35-acre property in Westport. The site features fossils from once part of the world's oldest coral reef and stone taken from the quarry was used in the building of the state capitol and the Brooklyn Bridge.

WESTPORT — Champlain Area Trails has announced plans to preserve 35 acres in the Town of Essex on land that features 400 million-year-old fossils, once part of the world’s oldest coral reef, as well as a globally rare type of forest.

According to a news release, the Essex Quarry Nature Park will be located on the southern edge of the hamlet, just a short distance from the Lake Champlain Ferries Essex/Charlotte, Vermont landing.

The Nature Park, which will include hiking trails and interpretive signs, is on the site of the former Essex Quarry that operated from the late 18th Century to just a few years ago.

Stone carved from the quarry walls was used in many of the buildings in Essex and was shipped south by lake and river barge, where it was used in the construction of the State House in Albany and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Today, the site showcases a combination of natural, geological, paleontological and historic features. These include fossils from an oceanic reef that dates back to a time when New York and Vermont were actually on separate continents thousands of miles apart.

The eastern part of the property features a rare natural community that was identified by Steve Young, an ecologist with New York State’s Natural Heritage Program as a “Limestone Woodland.”

It occurs on shallow soil above limestone bedrock and, while it occurs extensively along Lake Champlain, it is rare on the planet and in the rest of New York.

Once the property is secured through the purchase by CATS, its staff and volunteers will develop two miles of trails for both walking and cross country skiing.

Interpretive signs will be installed to inform visitors about the limestone woodland, geological features, fossils, and historical uses of the quarry.

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The Park is within easy walking distance for Essex residents who can enjoy healthy physical activity on its trails. For people visiting Essex, it will provide an informative trail they get to by traveling through the village with many patronizing local businesses.

The quarry’s current owners wanted it to become a permanent park for the people of Essex and approached CATS to find a way to make that happen.

They have generously discounted the purchase price of the property for CATS. The purchase cost along with other transaction and trail development costs, Which includes a kiosk, parking area, and signs, bringing the initial project cost to $165,000.

CATS is raising the money through donations and grants, along with naming opportunities available for items such as benches within the park.

More details on the Essex Quarry Nature Park Project are available by calling the CATS office at 518-962-2287 or emailing info@champlainareatrails.com.

“We are excited about this opportunity to create what will be one of the most accessible and important properties in the Adirondack, right here in the town of Essex,” CATS Executive Director Chris Maron said.

“We’re thrilled with the early reception we’re getting for this project and welcome everyone who wants to be a part of creating what will be a jewel in this area.

It really does have it all: remarkable fossils, an amazing geological story, local history, a unique natural community, all in a peaceful setting.

We invite everyone to be a part of helping to make this happen.”

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