When two early American conservationists came together in central Vermont in the 1800s, they helped set the stage for what would become, more than a century later, the only national park fully within Vermont.
Now, the legacy of George Perkins Marsh and Frederick Billings is celebrated year-round by tourists and locals who enjoy the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park's 555 acres in Woodstock. (The Rockefeller part of the name entered the equation years later.)
Nearby residents point to the park's central location in town and 12-month appeal as chief among its charms.
"A lot of locals use it, for sure. It's definitely not just a tourist thing," says Kathy Avellino, 52. "It's wonderful having it right literally in the downtown area. You can park in the village, walk across the bridge, and you're there."
Avellino, a real estate agent, says she spends a lot of time hiking in the park with her two golden retrievers, especially in October and November. That's hunting season, she explains, and hunting isn't allowed in the park, so it's safe.
"It's never crowded," she says. "It's for everybody: old, young, in shape, not in shape. And it's right here, right out the door, and that's a pretty amazing thing. Vermont's like that."
About the park
Size: 555 acres
Visitors: 29,049 in 2011
History: The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the boyhood home of George Perkins Marsh (1801-82), an early American conservationist, and later of Frederick Billings (1823-90), a lawyer and financier. Legislation making the site a national park passed in August 1992, but the area didn't become a park until Laurance Rockefeller, who inherited the land after marrying a granddaughter of Billings, relinquished life tenancy following his and his wife's donation of the property to the government.
When visiting: Visitor center is at 54 Elm St. in Woodstock. Visitor info: 802-457-3368.
Of note: The park has about 400 paintings and prints, including Hudson River School landscapes depicting sites that have since become national parks. Sites depicted include Golden Gate, Grand Teton and Yosemite.