Equinox Hotel Announces New Partnership with VINS

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(Host) The Equinox Resort in Manchester has teamed up with a Woodstock-based organization to develop environmental education programs in the Mount Equinox area. The partnership between the resort and the Vermont Institute of Natural Science was announced Thursday.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The agreement signals a new era for the 950-acre Equinox Preserve. This natural area includes spectacular scenery on Mount Equinox and contains one of the finest examples of northern hardwood forest.

The Vermont Institute of Natural Science is taking over many of the activities that were previously run by the Equinox Preservation Trust. VINS, which is based in Woodstock, will develop recreation and education programs for the local community and for resort guests. Sherman Kent is the organization’s executive director:

(Kent) “It would be my hope we can use this expanded partnership¿ to increase our mission-related education work. And that means reaching hotel guests, as well as reaching members of the Manchester community, as well as members of the greater Manchester community with programs and activities that will ultimately produce better stewards and the greater preservation and protection of these natural resources.”

(Dillon) The arrangement with VINS replaces an education partnership between the hotel and the Equinox Preservation Trust. The trust was funded through a $5 voluntary check off on hotel bills.

The Trust acts as steward for the Mount Equinox land. But it also worked with different organizations ¿ such as the University of Vermont and Bennington College ¿ on field studies and education partnerships. VINS gets a donation each year from those funds.

But in March, the Trust was restructured. The director was dismissed and VINS was called in to run the programs. The change was controversial. Critics worried about how the check-off money would be used. And some argued that the broad-based mission of the trust would be compromised.

Rick Paradis is on the VINS board and directs the Natural Areas Center at UVM. He’s waiting to see if VINS will work with UVM:

(Paradis) “My concern was while VINS as we know it, as it exists in Woodstock and elsewhere, certainly provides educational programs and outreach, and they do research and what have you. But EPT was doing quite a bit more, especially in land conservation and stewardship¿. That’s where my concern was ¿ that those kind of activities continue.”

(Dillon) VINS says it will do as much or more than was provided by the Equinox Preservation Trust. Director Sherman Kent says critics should check back in six months to measure the program’s success.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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