Kingdom Trails has not had an easy time of it recently. In January, three key landowners announced they would no longer be allowing mountain bikes on their land.
Then, the Kingdom Trails Association in conjunction with the New England Mountain Bike Association announced that NEMBAFest, the annual mountain bike festival that brought more than 4,000 people to the East Burke region last June, would not be held at Kingdom Trails in 2020. A new location has not been announced.
So it was with a sigh of relief that we heard the news on February 11 that the Kingdom Trails Association is exploring buying 250 acres of the prime trail real estate on Darling Hill, including the open land with vast views around the much-photographed Heaven’s Bench, land owned by Jay Peak developer Ariel Quiros before he was indicted for investor fraud in the Jay Peak/EB-5 scandal.
“We’re super excited,” said KTA Executive Director Abby Long. “However we are keeping our fingers crossed as we have yet to close. So nothing is confirmed.” KTA hopes to work with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, to explore opportunities to conserve and protect approximately 240 acres of land in perpetuity.
A statement on Kingdom Trails website reads: “The Kingdom Trails Board of Directors has chosen to pursue this purchase of the 250 acre property as it hosts miles of iconic trails at the center of the KTA network. Kingdom Trails’ principal goal in purchasing is to maintain those trails and protect this land from development. As there are use restrictions on a portion of the property that includes the residence, Kingdom Trails does not plan to place a Summer or Winter Welcome Center at this location.”
Alan Keays, of partner publication VTDigger.org ran this story, below:
Kingdom Trail has $1M deal in the works to purchase 240-acre Quiros property.
The court-appointed receiver in charge of overseeing many of the real estate holdings of the indicted former owner of Jay Peak has a deal in place to sell a property in Lyndon to the Kingdom Trail Association for a little more than a $1 million.
Michael Goldberg, the receiver, submitted a court filing Monday outlining the proposed sale of the home at 2266 Darling Hill Road and accompanying 240 acres in Lyndon formerly owned by Ariel Quiros.
Quiros was indicted in May along with three associates on criminal charges in an EB-5 investor fraud scandal tied to a failed biomedical research facility proposed for Newport.
Two years earlier, Quiros reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, agreeing to surrender close to $81 million in properties he owned, including Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resort.
In addition, the Darling Hill Road property, also known as Heaven’s Bench, was among those Quiros agreed to turn over to the regulators to help recoup money for foreign investors who put funds into projects headed by the developer.
The sale of the Darling Hill Road property to the Kingdom Trail Association for $1.05 million still needs the approval of federal Judge Darrin P. Gayles, who is presiding over the SEC civil case and settlement brought against Quiros in Florida. That case was filed in Florida because that is where Quiros resides and many of his businesses are located.
According to Goldberg’s court filing Monday, the Darling Hill property includes a five-bedroom, colonial-style home built in 1998 on a 10.29 acres lot with 240 acres of adjoining land. He described the home being in “poor condition” in need of “extensive” repairs.
Kingdom Trail Association is a nonprofit organization that oversees and maintains more than 100 miles of bike trails in Burke and surrounding area. During the winter, it maintains 15 kilometers of cross country ski trails at 2079 Darling Hill Road, across the road from the Quiros property.
The proposed land deal comes at a time when some of the landowners allowing access to the properties for trails are pulling back on their support for mountain bikers. At the end of last year, three of them decided to stop letting bikers on their land after decades of doing so.
Those three landowners are all on Darling Hill Road, which is where the Quiros property is also located.
It’s unclear from the court filing Monday how the Kingdom Trail Association is financing the $1 million purchase.
A 260 acre property in Lyndon, owned by Ariel Quiros, is planned to be sold to Kingdom Trail Association, according to court filings. Century 21 Farm and Forest photo
Goldberg wrote in his filing that he had listed with Century 21 Farm and Forest Realty to sell the house on the Darling Hill Road property for $749,000, and later reduced it to $699,000.
“The listing garnered interest including an offer for purchase,” according to the filing. “The Receiver, however, did not sell at that time.”
The filing stated that after “modifications to the listing” to make it “more attractive,” the 240-acre parcel was added increasing the purchase price to $1.050 million.
Kingdom Trail Association and the receiver have now entered into a purchase and sale agreement at that price, according to the filing.
“Kingdom oversees a network of biking trails in and around Burke, Vermont,” the filing stated. “Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Burke each year to utilize Kingdom’s trail network and the Burke Mountain Hotel benefits by this increase in tourism in the Burke area,” the filing stated.
The filing added, “The Receiver believes that selling the Darling Hill Property to Kingdom will further benefit the Burke Mountain Hotel by bringing biking trails even closer to the Burke Mountain Hotel.”
Goldberg, as the court-appointed receiver, also oversees the Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference. That EB-5 financed hotel project was headed by Quiros and his then-partner, Bill Stenger, former CEO and president of Jay Peak.
The receiver’s filing Monday stated that an appraiser recently valued the Darling Hill property at $1.1 million.
In seeking the judge’s approval, Goldberg wrote that selling the property would be in the best interest of the investors and bring to a close cost to the receivership associated with holding it, which he valued at a little more than $102,000 over more than three years.
Those costs include $15,000 in taxes each year, $20,000 in repairs to the heating and pipes, and $5,000 in fixes to the driveway.
“The sale will result in additional cash being deposited into the Receiver’s account,” Goldberg wrote, “which is maintained for the purpose of ultimately satisfying claims filed by the investors and creditors.”
Many other Quiros’ properties overseen by the receiver remain up for sale, including Jay Peak ski resort.
Goldberg has previously sold off two New York City luxury condos owned by Quiros, selling them for a little more than $6 million combined.
Quiros, Stenger, Bill Kelly, a key adviser to Quiros, and Jong Weon (Alex) Choi, of AnC Bio Korea, were indicted last spring on several federal counts, including wire fraud and making false statements regarding the failed biomedical research center proposed for Newport.
The indictment was returned by a grand jury more than three years after state and federal regulators brought civil investor fraud lawsuits against Stenger and Quiros.
Those lawsuits alleged the two men had misused $200 million of the more than $450 million they raised through the federal EB-5 immigrant investor program to finance several development projects in northern Vermont, including massive upgrades at Jay Peak.
Stenger and Quiros have since reached financial settlements in those civil actions, neither admitting or denying the allegations against them.
A trial in the case is currently set for October.
VTDigger reporter Justin Trombly contributed to this article.