Friday, April 11, 2014

A Successful April Stools' Day

By: Lisa Liotta, Niquette Bay State Park Ranger

On Saturday April 5, volunteers gathered Grand Isle, Sandbar and Niquette Bay State Parks to celebrate April Stools’ Day.  Wait!  What was that you said? …April STOOLS…does that mean……?! Yes, exactly, the brown stuff: stools, not fools.

This past weekend the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Lake Champlain Committee partnered to organize an “April Stools Day” park clean-up the first Saturday in April.  Vermont State Parks encourages people to venture outside all year round, and this winter our parks have been well loved and used for outdoor recreation in many ways. 

Sand Bar State Park. Photo by Bonnie Pease
While most people clean up litter and waste from their dogs, there are some that don’t.  What’s left behind usually accumulates until park staff return in late spring to prepare for the summer.  Hound mounds freeze over the winter, often becoming buried under layers of snow and ice.  When the temperatures rise, water from melting ice and snow runs over the surface of the frozen ground sweeping the waste away into our streams, rivers and lakes. 

Ruth Blauwiekel of Colchester came out to scoop the poop at Niquette Bay State Park.  Ruth commented, “Who knew that scooping poop could be so much fun!  Really, I enjoyed the morning and it was a good opportunity to make some new friends while doing some “spring cleaning” at the park.” 

Niquette Bay State Park. Photo by Bob Henneberger
Thanks to a team of hardy volunteers, more than 650 piles of dog waste and several bags of trash were picked up and removed from the three parks.  Among the turnout were members of the Lake Champlain Committee, the Colchester and Milton Conservation Commissions and the Colchester Democrats.  Volunteer gifts of appreciation were generously provided by Cabot Cheese, Darn Tough Socks, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Mutt Mitts and Wally’s Bagels in Grand Isle. 

Pam Keyser of Colchester who frequently visits Niquette Bay State Park with her two standard poodles shares her belief in Karma Poop with us.  Here’s how it works:  when your dog is off-leash, chances are pretty good that when they are out of sight, they will occasionally leave a hound mound behind. Practicing the art of Karma Poop, Pam always picks up a few extra mounds every time she comes to the park, and hopes that others will do the same.

So do we.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Get Ready for Summer with Camping Tips & Tricks

Spring has finally arrived in Vermont and that means Vermont State Parks will be opening soon! Are you ready to explore, play, and camp in the parks this summer? 

Our website has lots of great resources to help you organize your next summer adventure. The Camping Tips & Tricks video series walks you through every step of the camping process from choosing a place to go, to setting up camp, to building a fire. Our camp menus, recipes, and shopping lists have ideas for different breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts that you can make at your site and the Activities section offers many ideas for games and projects that will keep everyone entertained. Check out the Weekend Itineraries to get inspired during your next camping trip!

To see all of the How-to resources on our website,visit: http://www.vtstateparks.com/howto/index.htm


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vermont State Park's Knight Island State Parks Goes "Survivor"

Long known as a favored destination for naturists, Knight Island State Park is rumored to be out front in competition to play host to CBS's long running " Survivor " series.

The reality show, which has experienced deflated ratings is looking to freshen the brand by heading North.
Neither confirming or denying consideration of Knight Island, CBS executives that did not want to be identified have commented that the show does need a change of scenery. "Temps in the mid 40's at night, some black flies and poison ivy mixed in with clothing optional, yeah that's true reality Survivor".

Local resident Cedric St Allaire, a 60 year resident of nearby Isle LaMotte commented on the rumors by chuckling and then adding "just don't let them go swimming. That will surely shrink the ratings".

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We'd Like Your Input on Proposed Fee Changes

Vermont State Parks is proposing some modest fee increases to generate funds to offset increasing operation
and maintenance costs. Revenue generated from state park services helps sustain the system and all its values, including preservation of open space and interpretation of our environment and the natural world.

We would like your input on these changes. Let us know what you think. Please contact Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks, via email at craig.whipple@state.vt.us or mail at Craig Whipple, Vermont State Parks, 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2, Montpelier, VT  05620. Comments will be accepted until May 12, 2014.

You are also invited to attend a public meeting about these proposed changes, Monday, May 5, 5:30 PM at the DEC Act 250 Conference Room, Agency of Natural Resources, 111 West Street, Essex Junction, Vermont 05453.

The proposed changes are as follows:
  • Increase camping fees by $2/per night
  • Increase fee for Mt. Philo picnic pavilion to $200 Monday - Friday and $300 Saturday - Sunday.
  • Increase horse camping fee by $4 per night
  • Increase boat rental fee at Seyon Lodge to $7.50/per hour
  • Increase fee for rental of entire lodge at Seyon Lodge State Park to $650 Monday - Thursday & $700 Friday - Sunday
  • Reduce weekend day use fee at Sand Bar State Park by fifty cents per person to $3/per adult and $2/per child under 14 to be consistent with other parks in the system
  • Change Stone Hut maximum stay to five nights
You can read the complete annotated rule at this link: http://www.vtstateparks.com/pdfs/2014-rule-annotated.pdf


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Almost Full Moon Hike at Niquette Bay

This past weekend, visitors arrived at Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester to celebrate Saturday's almost full moon with an evening snowshoe hike. The 1.5 mile hike through the park had a turnout of about 40 people, including several visiting the park for the first time and Milton Boy Scout Pack #43.

The hike was led by Niquette Bay State Park Ranger, Lisa Liotta. According to Lisa, “an hour or so before the hike, a heavy snow began to fall and continued all through the event, adding a couple inches of snow to the trails and turning the park into a winter wonderland.”

Though the moon wasn't entirely visible through the snow, hikers enjoyed a beautiful winter evening in the park. Following the hike, everyone warmed up with some hot cocoa and a bonfire, expertly maintained by the boy scouts. 

Stay tuned for Wildflower Walks at Niquette Bay this spring!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Daylight Saving Time: Return of the Light

When we “spring forward” early in the morning this Sunday, we set our clocks ahead one hour, and as a result, gain an hour of daylight in the evening. This event is practiced across the United States, with the exception of most of Arizona, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Marianas Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time is practiced in not only North America, but also much of Europe, and parts of Brazil. It is not observed in most African and Asian countries; Russia did away with the practice in 2011.

The tradition is a based on the idea that an extra hour of daylight in the evening will increase productivity and decrease energy use. However, incidences of energy savings and increased activity seem to be dependent on region, habits, and outside temperature. Some people argue that it is too difficult for the body’s inner clock to adjust to the time shift, while others seem to enjoy the longer days. According to Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time author Michael Downing, speaking to National Geographic, “…Each year at least 10 and often as many as 30 new bills appear in various state legislatures to advocate either permanently stopping daylight saving or going on daylight saving time all year long.”

Daylight Saving Time has a long and controversial history. The original concept of daylight saving time is sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who came upon the idea during his time in Paris. The First bill proposing the idea was presented to Parliament in 1909, but it faced a great deal of opposition and was never drafted into law. During World War I, Germany used daylight saving to conserve fuel and the United States and Britain soon followed. The concept was abandoned by many after the war ended, but then readopted during World War II. United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a year-round daylight saving period which ran from February 1942 to September 1945.

In America, following the war, states were free to choose if and when they would institute daylight saving, which resulted in broadcasting and transportation mix-ups nationwide. In order to curb the confusion, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was created. This act called for consistent daylight saving times nationwide, beginning at the end of April and ending on the last Sunday in October. However, states were still able to opt out of daylight saving time if they chose.  In the early 1970s, in response to the 1973 Oil Embargo, daylight saving periods extended to ten and later eight months as part of an energy saving initiative.

Since the 1970s, American daylight saving time periods have changed a few more times, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 dictated that daylight saving begin on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. The current daylight saving period has been observed since 2007. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Animals in Winter: Barred Owls

Photo courtesy of Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Owls are everywhere in Vermont this winter! Snowy owls have migrated south from the arctic in search of prey, making this winter an irruption year. Snowy owls sightings have been reported statewide and across the northeast. But snowy owls aren’t the only raptors taking residence in Vermont this winter. The barred owl, Vermont’s most common, doesn’t migrate and populates the state’s forests all year long.

Barred owls are grayish-brown with white stripes on their wings, back, and vertically across their belly. Unlike other owls in Vermont, they have brown eyes. If you haven't seen a barred owl, there is a good chance that you’ve heard one. They have many vocalizations including hoots, grunts, squeaks, and gurgles. Their most recognizable call sounds like, “Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?” Female and male owls communicate during mating season in late winter by calling and responding to each other or vocalizing in unison. Owl pairs mate for life and raise their young together. Barred owls are curious, gentle, and friendly animals that are known to approach humans when they imitate their calls in the forest.  

Photo courtesy of Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Barred owls eat mice, rabbits, and fish, reptiles and sometimes birds; their diets are flexible, and they will eat what’s available. They swallow their prey whole, digesting what they can, and regurgitating pellets of fur and bones later. They are largely nocturnal and hunt at night, but are sometimes seen during the day, especially in winter.

The habitats of barred owls vary, but they favor mature deciduous forests near water. They sometimes inhabit spruce-fir forests and mixed-conifer deciduous forests. The largest population of barred owls lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains. During the winter, they are often found nesting in lower canopy of trees, using the thicker vegetation to block the wind.

The population of barred owls in the state is relatively secure. Their lowest populations were reported during the 19th century when much of Vermont was deforested for farming. Today, they are most vulnerable to loss of habitat through the development of the forests where they live.  

If you find yourself trying to spot a snowy owl this winter, remember to keep your eyes (and ears) open for a barred owl, too!

Listen to owl audio:
For more information about barred owls visit Vermont Fish & Wildlife and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology