Friday, June 26, 2015

ECHO Center, Smokey Bear, and Woodsy Owl Promotion!

This year, the Vermont State Parks are teaming up with ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center to run a great promotion that entitles overnight campers to use their receipt in exchange for $4 admission to the ECHO Leahy Center for a group of up to four people! ECHO members are also eligible for free day-use parks passes to any of our awesome state parks, and the promotion runs until September 13. 

ECHO is currently featuring an awesome exhibit called “Home Sweet Home” with Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and other furry critters to teach kids how to care for our planet, it’s natural resources, and about what is important to know when you head out into the woods. Kids have a chance to explore a Ranger Station, build bird houses, learn about native plants, and even get a mini forestry lesson.

In the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” Rain Garden, children learn to reclaim water and help a pretend raindrop find its way from shed roof to rain barrel, then to feed flowers and vegetables to help them grow. “Would You Believe it Come From a Tree” offers a new perspective on wood products and demonstrates growth cycles. There’s even a “Find It In the Forest Trail,” which encourages coordination with a balance beam, tipsy bridge, hollow stump and rock climbing wall for kids to explore.

A campsite helps young adventurers understand fire safety with sing-alongs, tent shadow puppets, and the fire lookout tower, which gives everyone an inside look at forests, reforestation, and how wildfires affect the woods.

Every other Friday from 10 a.m. until noon, the Burlington Fire Department will help Smokey work to prevent fires by bringing different fire trucks and equipment to the exhibit! Check out all their cool gear, and get safety tips from the pros.

We’re so excited to be in ca-hoots with Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl, so please take advantage of this great promotion and check out the Home Sweet Home exhibit at the ECHO Leahy Center! 

by Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Reel Fun" Fishing Program is Making a Splash

Vermont State Parks and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department are teaming up this season with an exciting new program that will encourage park visitors to take advantage of the diverse, easily accessible and family-friendly fishing opportunities that exist in most Vermont State Parks. 

"We're thrilled to partner with Vermont Fish & Wildlife to help make fishing more accessible to anglers at Vermont State Parks," said Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks. "There's a strong history of recreational angling at our state parks and we want to continue to bolster that tradition through the 'Reel Fun' program. Whether you want to fish from shore or take out one of our canoes, kayaks or paddleboats, we hope that you will make fishing at a state park a must-do activity this summer."

In addition to hosting "Let's Go Fishing" clinics with trained instructors, 10 state parks will now be providing fishing equipment to visitors on a loaner basis.  Included in the equipment will be rods, reels, fishing line and an assortment of lures or baits that can be signed out by park visitors in order to help provide instant access to the sport of fishing. A guide will also be available that includes information about the waterbody, a lake or river map, a list of fish species present, fishing tips, and techniques applicable to each waterway, as well as information about obtaining a Vermont fishing license.

The following state parks will be participating in the "Reel Fun" initiative in 2015: Grand Isle State Park on Lake Champlain, Lake Carmi State ParkStillwater State Park on Groton Lake, Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore, Silver Lake State ParkWilgus State Park on the Connecticut River, Half Moon State Park on Half Moon Pond, Lake St. Catherine State ParkWoodford State Park on Adams Reservoir, and Brighton State Park on Spectacle Pond.
"From my personal experience camping and fishing with my family, I can attest that Vermont's state parks and fishing are a natural combination," said Eric Palmer, director of fisheries with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "The 'Reel Fun' program will help to make fishing in our state parks an easy option to anyone who might want to try it out." 

The program will include a "Reel Fun VT" photo contest where visitors can submit photos of themselves fishing at state parks to either Vermont State Parks or Vermont Fish & Wildlife.  At the end of the summer, three winners will be chosen. The first place winner will receive two starter fishing kits as well as a weekend of free camping in a Vermont State Park.  The second place winner will receive one starter fishing kit and a 2016 season vehicle pass for Vermont State Parks.  The third place winner will also receive a starter fishing kit and a punch card good for 10 visits to any Vermont State Park!

Visitors can submit "Reel Fun VT" photos via email to or, or can use #ReelFunVT to tag photos on Twitter. 

by Chris Adams
Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Park Ranger: Map Turtle Edition

by Lisa Liotta

The Proud Mother
As a park ranger, you see some unusual things. Take last Friday, for was a beautiful, warm, sunny day at Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester. The sun was low in the afternoon sky and the sand on our south-facing Lake Sand Beach radiated warmth after baking all day under the sun’s rays. I didn’t see her right away, but, as I neared the prime spot on the beach, there she was…a lone park visitor, basking in the warm sun, with her toes buried in the sand. As I approached, I realized…..she was laying eggs!  

 This wasn’t just any park visitor, it was a Northern Map Turtle.  Map Turtles aren’t endangered in our state, but they are a species of special concern, which means they are ones that we want to keep an eye on.  Map turtles are in a few lakes besides Lake Champlain, but Lake Champlain is the mother lode.

Map Turtles live in the bottom of rivers and lakes, where there are places to bask on fallen trees, and they highly prefer unshaded sites with sandy soil in which to nest. With the Park’s sandy beach adjacent to an undeveloped natural area of Malletts Bay, Niquette Bay State Park had just what this visitor was looking for. Lake Sand Beach natural communities are also uncommon in Vermont, with most of them having been developed as recreation areas or private homes. (Vermont’s largest remaining Lake Sand Beach, along with its most intact natural dune system, is protected at Alburg Dunes State Park.)
Quick Thinking by Lisa and Megan

Within 90 minutes of my encounter with this park visitor, she had completed her labor and was long gone. After laying eggs and covering the nest using her hind feet, a mother turtle's responsibilities are complete. Now, it was up to nature to take its course. Left undisturbed, the eggs would hatch in about 70 days, depending on the weather. The problem was, this female turtle chose the spot on the beach that was the busiest of all for all of the other park’s other visitors; dead-center and right next to a picnic table.

Although turtle nests can be quite inconspicuous, especially in sand after it’s been gently washed with rain, this one was poorly placed for survival. Quickly, Park Attendant Megan Kane and I constructed and placed a small cage and sign to protect the nest from disturbance.

Soon-to-be Turtle
Turtles choose their nest sites carefully, relying on 200 million years of finely honed instincts. Nests should only be moved in extreme circumstances by experienced and trained people. Fortunately, I was able to reach one of those people after 5pm on a Friday. Steve Parren is the Coordinator for the Wildlife Diversity Program of Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department. After describing the next location and the species of the turtle, Steve agreed that the nest’s best chance of survival was to relocate it from the busiest part of the beach to another section that was not frequented by people.

The following Wednesday, Steve came to the park to help. After removing the wire cage, he very carefully removed the sand a little at a time using a paintbrush so as not to break the eggs, uncovering sixteen eggs in total. Map turtles typically lay between six and twenty eggs, each one measuring approximately 1.25” long, in a cluster located 4-5” beneath the surface.

Park Attendant Megan Kane 
During early development, rotating the shell may impact the turtle’s development, so the eggs must be handled very carefully and placed in the new nest location with the same side facing up as they were in the original nest. Steve delicately laid the eggs on a bed of sand in a bucket, then carried them to a new location a little farther up the beach. The new location was the same environment as the original nest, but less developed as an active beach area where human park visitors don’t often venture. After placing the eggs with care in the new nest, with the same shell sides facing up just as they were in the original nest, we carefully covered the nest with sand, and wished the baby turtles well.

Random Acts of Camping Coming to Vermont State Parks This Summer!

MONTPELIER - Designed to share the joy of camping with Vermonters, the “Random Acts of Camping” program will be coming to a state park day use area near you. "Random Acts of Camping" rewards lucky park visitors with two free nights of tent, RV, lean-to, or cabin camping in any Vermont State Park campground. One winner will be chosen at random on nice weather weekends through August 3, beginning in Elmore State Park on June 27.

The program was developed as a way to increase statewide accessibility to camping and to foster a lifelong love of the outdoors. Vermont State Parks will be giving away the free park stays to day users at Elmore, Silver Lake, Sand Bar, Alburgh Dunes and Kingsland Bay state parks during busy weekends this summer. The winners will be chosen at random by park staff. Winners will also receive personal trip planning assistance from the Parks Sales & Service Manager.

"Camping with your family and friends is so much fun and the outdoors is so good for you. Our hope is that this program encourages a few more people to give camping a try," says Rochelle Skinner, Parks Sales & Service Manager.. 

Random Acts of Camping will kick off at Elmore State Park this weekend. Every Wednesday, if weekend weather is looking good, we’ll announce which park we’ll be at for the upcoming weekend on the Vermont State Parks’ website, Facebook and Twitter feeds..

Rise VT Hosts Smoothie Bike and Life-Sized Jenga in the Parks!

Visiting the Vermont State Parks just got a whole lot more part of a Vermont-wide initiative to promote healthy living, RiseVT will be visiting the Vermont State Parks several times over the course of the summer with a smoothie bike and a set of life-sized jenga pieces!

Families and individuals are one of RiseVT key target groups, so they’ve decided to bring their message to the parks with some nutritious mixes and stress-less fun.

The summer schedule is as follows:
Vermont Days - Saturday, June 13th, 2015: noon-2pm at Lake Carmi State Park
Vermont Days - Saturday, June 13th, 2015: 5:30-7pm at Sand Bar State Park
Saturday afternoon, July 11th at Grand Isle State Park
Saturday afternoon, July 18th at Grand Isle State Park
Sunday afternoon, July 26th at Kill Kare State Park
Sunday afternoon, August 30th at Kill Kare State Park

From the RiseVT blog:

On Saturday, May 30th, RiseVT debuted it’s “soon to be famous” smoothie bike at the North Hero Community Hall Radiant Health and Wellness Fair.  Five batches of smoothies were made and enjoyed by all!

RiseVT Coordinator Dorey Demers gracefully spilled the first batch all over herself and the floor but thankfully there were many community partners to help her as they cleaned up and shared a laugh.
Kids enjoyed hopping on the bike and were anxiously awaiting to try out the smoothie that they had just “rode” for.   The RiseVT Berrylicious Smoothie was a hit.

Here is the recipe: (Yields approximately 32 ounces)
2 cups of frozen berries
1 banana
Handful of fresh kale
100% pure orange juice
Ice if needed

In addition to providing fresh cool smoothies to the attendees, RiseVT also provided free blood pressure screenings with health coach Brian Clukey. It was a great day had by all and thank you to our community partner Beverley Camp for inviting us to participate!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Introducing the New Trail Finder Website - Finding a Hike Has Never Been Easier!

We all have those afternoons and weekends where we want to go out and get into the woods, but we don’t feel like hiking our usual spots and aren’t sure where to head. Lucky for you, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation has teamed up with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA) and the Vermont Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Community to help you solve that problem! We are very proud to announce our new Trail Finder website, just in time for National Trails Day on June 6th.

How does it help you? Trail Finder ( is basically a search engine for trails in our region that combines interactive trail maps and descriptive details that enable you to search not only by town, but also by hiking difficulty, trail activity (mountain biking, snowshoeing, etc) or keyword. It presents you with a list sorted by relevance to your search, and you can see all of the trails’ stats easily as you scroll: activities offered, location, difficulty, and length. If you are interested in one, click “View Trail” to check out a detailed description, map, weather forecast, and directions to the trailhead.

Thanks primarily to funding from the Vermont Recreation Trail Program, the Trail Finder website will provide visitors and residents with a free resource that they can both utilize and contribute to—we are actively seeking pictures, comments, and trail suggestions from our users! You will need to create a free account in order to make comments, and if you are interested in becoming a trail manager or would like to see a trail on the site, please contact our Recreation Coordinator Jessica Savage at

Some of the highlighted features of Trail Finder include:

Geolocation: Access our mobile site on your smart phone and see yourself on the map! You can also download trails and maps into your GPS unit or view them on Google Earth.
See Nearby Trails: We’re making it easy to expand your experience or plan a bigger trip—associated trails will be linked to your trail selections so you’ll have more options at your fingertips.
More Photos: We’re trying to get slideshows up of all the trails so that you’ll know what to expect, and don’t forget to send us your own trail pictures if you notice a trail has no photographs yet.
Improved Communication: Encounter a fallen tree that blocks a trail? Have suggestions about your trail experience? Contact information is available for each trail, which enables hikers to get in touch with trail managers even faster.
Enhanced Search Capabilities: Looking for trails that allow motorized vehicles? Pet friendly hikes? Hikes that end up at fire towers? We’ve got you covered.

Having fun in the great outdoors just got a whole lot easier…just spend a few minutes searching, find your perfect trail, and we’ll see you out there. Happy Trail Finding!

By Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks 

Friday, May 29, 2015

It's Miller Time 2015: Guest Bloggers Brian and Lori Miller Explore Groton

Once again the season is upon us to get outside and hike, bike, camp, fish, swim, and just enjoy the outdoors. It’s a short but sweet season in Vermont, all the more appreciated after the long, sometimes endless seeming winter we just had.

This year our family is continuing our quest to visit all of the state parks in Vermont.  The adventure started three years ago with a weekend camping trip to Grand Isle State Park. Our kids, who were four and two at the time, enjoyed sleeping in the tent, sitting around the campfire, and of course, roasting marshmallows (very closely supervised).  They have grown a lot in two years and now they are both biking around the campgrounds! It’s true what people say about kids growing up fast!

Last year we enjoyed a weekend at Groton state forest. We camped at Ricker pond and swam at Boulder Beach. Boulder is definitely one of the nicest beaches we have seen so far; there is lovely grass, rocks to climb on, a playground, and a great beach. We highly recommend it!

One of the highlights of last summer was when our six-year-old daughter was able to swim across the
pool at Button Bay with out any assistance (the requirement for using the slide) and then was allowed
to go down the slide all by herself. I should mention that this comes after the prior year at Button Bay when we had to literally carry her out of the pool kicking and screaming because she kept trying to swim across the pool and couldn’t. I think the whole campground heard her and the people at the pool certainly got a show of this lovely parenting moment.

If you’re a parent reading this, I know you understand. So you see? What a difference a year makes! After the historic water slide incident, she worked the whole year on her swimming skills and every time her comment was, “So I can go down the slide at Button Bay.” The smile she had on her face when she finally came sliding down a year later was brighter than Fourth of July fireworks!

This year the first park on our list is Maidstone. We will also be returning to Groton for camping at Stillwater and hopefully start to hit some of the state parks in southern Vermont. So get out there and take full advantage of the beautiful Vermont summer! I’m not going to lie. Camping with kids is work, and you might have to carry your child kicking and screaming from the pool, or lake, or anywhere. But that too, shall pass, and you will be left with truly wonderful memories (and a good story to tell) and the gift of having children who love and appreciate the outdoors.

Our tally is 17 out of 52 parks and counting. Where will your next state park adventure be?