Burlington's Urban Reserve

photo courtesy of the City of Burlington

The Urban Reserve in Burlington, Vermont's Waterfront district is the latest incarnation of a property that was once at the industrial center of the city’s busy port. Beginning in the 1850s, lumber yards, train companies, power generating plants and water pumping facilities set up operations along the shore, inhabiting land created by filling the lake shore with sand excavated from the nearby dunes. When lumber profits waned in the early 20th century, the petroleum industry largely took over this portion of the shore. Tanks and bollards became flagships of the Waterfront skyline. As industrial transportation shifted from the lake to the roads, the structures on the Urban Reserve were gradually dismantled and removed.

The Reserve is located in Burlington, Vermont north of the Burlington Sailing Center and south of North Beach.

View Urban Reserve, Burlington VT in a larger map

The city purchased this 45 acre parcel in 1991 after an Urban Renewal Plan was approved by voters. An interim use and stewardship plan was adopted in 1997 that set an agenda for the next 15 years and emphasized open space, public access and conservation. In 2012, the voters of Burlington passed a bill to devote $6 million toward waterfront revitalization. Although changes to the Urban Reserve were not included in this bill, attention has been drawn to this area and an effort to revitalize the reserve through a well balanced, cooperative approach has developed.

After the removal of the last petroleum drum in 1994, the landscape of the Urban Reserve began to reestablish its own natural ecosystems. Wetlands sprung with cattails and willows, forests of cottonwood and ash took root, and birds, animals, and humans moved in to live and recreate. Neighboring the popular Waterfront Park, developing Waterfront North Property, and busy North Beach, the Urban Reserve is now poised to be managed and developed according the stipulations laid out in its initial conservation easement.