BkC Given Iconic Riverfront Parcel
Battenkill Conservancy (BkC) closed out 2016 with the exciting announcement that Jessica Oakley of western Massachusetts has donated three prime riverfront acres to the Washington County-based land trust. The parcel, located in the town of Salem, N.Y., is contiguous to the historic Rexleigh Covered Bridge spanning the Battenkill. Known as the Rexleigh Mill, the complex and the remains of its majestic white marble walls was once a thriving marble milling operation begun in the mid-19th century. Over the years the complex has housed a wide variety of industries, from the sprawling Bartlett All Steel Scythe Company to a more recent pottery commune established in the mid 1960s. Oakley inherited the property from her mother, Edythe Donovan who together with her husband at the time, long-time local resident and retired architect John Oakley, was co-founder of the commune. Jessica spent her early years living there with her parents and other members. She and her father were inspired to donate the parcel to Battenkill Conservancy after reading about the Schmidt family’s ten-acre riverfront parcel donation in late 2015. The long and relatively narrow parcel benefits from more than 2,000 feet of prime riverbank frontage while connecting to the state-owned land of the Rexleigh Covered Bridge. By adding the parcel to Battenkill Conservancy’s portfolio of permanently protected properties, public access to that section of the river is assured in perpetuity. Railroad tracks, once instrumental in transporting the mill’s output now belong to the state-owned North East Railroad Company and border the parcel’s eastern edge. BkC plans to work with local volunteers to create safe walking trails on the property and restore nostalgic artifacts remaining at the site. Access improvements for fishing and swimming will also be addressed. While there are no plans to embark on a full building restoration, the hope is to restore an adjacent timber-framed building located on the property which houses one of two large-scale pottery kilns. For information on BkC, visit battenkillconservancy.org.