Thursday, May 28, 2015

Parks Prescription Program is now in effect!

Following doctor’s orders is about to get more fun thanks to a new initiative announced today by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Under the new “Park Prescription” program, physicians around the state will prescribe their patients time outdoors in Vermont State Parks as a way to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues—and we couldn’t be happier!

Here’s how it works: sixteen doctors’ offices around Vermont will issue Park Prescriptions, which will entitle patients to free entry at any Vermont State Park. The program is a partnership between the Vermont State Parks, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the Department of Health, and physicians across the state.

“We all know that the one of the best ways to stay healthy is to stay active,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Luckily we live in Vermont and are surrounded by natural resources that make staying active easy and fun. So listen to your doctor and get outside this summer!” 

The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise to help prevent heart disease and stroke. For children, outdoor activity is especially important. According to the National Wildlife Federation, spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues. 

“The collective support of Vermont physicians who know the nearly limitless health benefits of increased physical activity, especially for young people, will only add to our reputation as one of the healthiest places to live in the nation, year after year,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health,” said Craig Whipple, Director of Vermont State Parks. “Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit. And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time!”

Vermont consistently ranks among one of the nation’s healthiest states. America’s Health Rankings finds that overall Vermont is the second healthiest state in America! And the 2015 Seniors Report by the same organization recently found that Vermont is now the healthiest state in Americafor seniors

Physicians participating in the Park Prescription program include David Coddaire in Morrisville, John Leppman in Bellows Falls, Robert Tortolani in Brattleboro, Thomas Curchin in Barre, Harriet Shea in Barre, Paul Laffal in Montpelier, Barb Frankowski in Burlington, Alicia Jacobs in Colchester, and Keith Michl in Manchester Center.

Friday, May 22, 2015

FREE DANDELIONS at Vermont State Parks!

Spring is a wonderful time of year: we’re reminded once again that color exists in the world, that one day soon we won’t even need a sweater outside, and that diving into a lake will soon be possible without personal injury.

Spring also brings a fresh onslaught of what many gardeners label a horror, a pestilence, and a darn tough weed…dandelions. Dandelions are just about everywhere, covering every field in our lovely Vermont State Parks, and most likely your yard. What you might not know is that Dandelions aren’t actually indigenous—they were brought over from Europe and Asia specifically for their medicinal benefits.  So before you try and rip them all up or spray them with dandy-killer, there are several alternatives that you can consider, all of which provide numerous health benefits

Eat Your Vegetables

Dandelion greens have been a long-time summer salad accent, and at 25 calories per cup, they pack a serious punch of vitamins and minerals. They provide over 100% of your Vitamin A requirement, 30% of your Vitamin C, and 10% Calcium and Iron. They’re a great source of Vitamin B6 and K as well, and contain more protein than spinach. They also contain significant amounts of copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium—all the good stuff. Since the greens can be slightly bitter by themselves, they are great in smoothies alongside sweeter fruits such as banana, strawberry, or mango! Here's a recipe you might try for your first go-round with dandelion greens.

Pick Some Flowers

Dandelion flowers have long been used as liver cleansers since they contain high levels of Luteolin and Lecithin. Plants rich in these flavonoids have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to treat diseases such as hypertension, inflammatory disorders, and cancer.  And just think, they’ve been sitting in your backyard just wasting away! I took it upon myself to clean up my lawn the other day, and experimented with dandelion fritters—basically little pancakes with dandelion flowers in them. They were delicious, and the whole process was so easy:
1. Pick the flowers
2. Cut off the stem and pluck the downward-facing greens from the base of the flower
3. Wash them
4. Dunk them in your homemade batter (flour, milk, egg, baking soda, and seasoning of your choice)
5. Pan fry
6. Eat the entire pan of them in one sitting

 Milk Them for All They’re Worth

Dandelion stalks produce sap generally referred to as dandelion milk, which is both antimicrobial and antifungal, which makes it a great remedy for skin conditions.  The sap itself can be applied to and reduce the symptoms of itches, ringworm, eczema, and acne. I found this cool recipe for a light moisturizer that only uses dandelions and coconut oil: if anybody tries it, please let us know how it goes!

 So there you have it—dandelions are useful for more than pretty flower crowns and exercising with a weed-whacker. This is a great site if you’re looking for more ideas AND you’re in luck: the Vermont State Parks are offering FREE DANDELIONS with purchase of day admission in any of our 52 locations! Just remember that the bees need them too, so please leave two dandelions for each one you pick. Trust me, there are enough to go around.

Happy Picking! 

By Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks

Thursday, May 21, 2015

For a Native Floridian, Vermont is a visit to Bizarro World

This piece is by Mark Hinson, a popular Florida writer and appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.

I am a fifth-generation native Floridian, so I'm used to living in a gorgeous state where people trash the joint and treat it like a rented car.

In Florida, we use sinkholes as God's natural graves for old cars and dead refrigerators. A sand dune always looks better with a high-rise condominium on it. Let's go ahead and frack the aquifer because, you know, you can always go out and buy a new fresh-water aquifer.
Vermont view

The perfect metaphor for Florida is Walt Disney World, which paved over a natural swamp and wetland to build an amusement park and a fake version of an African savanna.

"Don't Save It, Pave It," should be the motto of my beloved, crazy, self-hating state.

That is why it was such a culture shock when my wife and I spent a solid week in Vermont earlier this month. We stayed with our close friends, Steve and Kim, who moved to Burlington two years ago, so we got an insider's tour of the Green Mountain State.

If Florida is a constant fever dream, Vermont is a relaxing, strange nap on the porch.

Which way to Cafe Risque?  [note: this is a gigantic billboard plastered all over the interstates in Florida, an ad for a slimy little strip bar just outside of Gainesville]

The first thing I noticed while driving through the rolling mountains of Vermont's Interstate 89 was there were no billboards hawking SeaWorld, Ron Jon Surf Shops or secession from the Union. There were no billboards at all.
"You don't have any billboards?" I asked Steve a day after I arrived. "How do you know which mega-church to attend or find your way to the next Cafe Risque?"
Florida kitsch

"Billboards are forbidden by law," he said. "They are eyesores that get in the way of the scenery."

"Dear lord, what kind of unholy pinko paradise have I entered?" I said.

The roadsides were free of fast-food bags, empty beer cans and discarded Big Gulp cups thanks to a stiff $500 fine for littering. The medians and roadways were freshly mowed. The place was as manicured as Switzerland on a Sunday. It was all so postcard pretty that I could almost forgive Vermont for unleashing the mind-numbing jam band Phish on the world.

Burlington is home to University of Vermont, which was founded in 1791 and looks a lot like the set of "Dead Poets Society" (1989).

"I had a friend from out of state who walked on campus and asked a student if the University of Vermont had a football team," Steve said. "The student had to stop and think for a minute before he said, 'I don't think so.' That has never happened on the campus of Florida State."

"I thought the University of Vermont had a football team and was called The Rootin'-Tootin' Raving Socialists," I said.

Unlike Florida, the concept of urban sprawl never caught on in Vermont, which has the second smallest population in the United States. Nearly every carefully preserved town has mom-and-pop shops, farm-to-table restaurants, independent bookstores, local brew pubs and non-chain music shops surrounding the village square. In Florida, we carefully manufacture such cozy towns as Seaside and Celebration to remind us of what we have already destroyed.
Florida Sprawl

If you want to shop at a Walmart in Burlington, you have to drive 29 miles north to St. Albans, near the Canadian border. St. Albans is famous for a raid in 1864 when American Confederate soldiers, who were hiding out in Canada, headed south to rob three banks in St. Albans before shooting up the town. With that kind of hell-raisin' Civil War pedigree, of course, St. Albans has a Walmart.

The state's painfully quaint capital city, Montpelier, looks like a town found inside a snow globe. It is home to a simple, gold-domed capitol building, which is, more important, just a quick walk away from Chill Gelato, a tiny storefront that sells the most delicious gelato found this side of the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy.

Montpelier is sort of the Bizarro World opposite reflection of Tallahassee, where our stately Old Capitol is overshadowed by a 22-story architectural monstrosity that may be a Transformer robot suffering from an overdose of Viagra.

Let's go look for Champ
After we spent nearly a week roaming the tourist-dense Church Street in Burlington and the back roads of the Vermont dairy lands, Steve called his friend, Brian Boardman, who keeps a 30-foot motorboat docked on Lake Champlain near downtown Burlington. Brian offered to take us out on the water for a spin on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Lake Champlain is allegedly home to Champ, a giant water serpent in the tradition of The Loch Ness
Lake Champlain
Monster. In 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain spotted the long-necked beast while fighting the local Iroquois tribe over front-row tickets to a Phish concert. Or something like that.

These days, Burlington is home to the minor-league baseball team the Vermont Lake Monsters, which features Tallahassee's John Nogowski as an infielder. I did not get the chance to quiz Nogowski about his team's mascot, but I did talk to Brian about it.

"No, I've never seen Champ," Boardman said as he pointed out the wood cabin where he spent his boyhood summers growing up on Lake Champlain. "And I've spent a lot of time on this water."
That still did not stop me from mistaking every floating log in Lake Champlain for the backbone of a plesiosaur.

Boardman, who is in his late 40s, was one of the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street during the boom days in the late '80s and '90s. About 15 years ago, he burned out on the high-pressure Manhattan lifestyle and headed back to Vermont, where he and his wife bought a house.
"At the closing, I asked the previous owners for the keys to the front door," Boardman said. "The owner said, 'Oh, I don't know where they are, we never lock the door.' In New York, we had about 10 different locks on our door."

That type of laid-back, live-and-let-live Vermont attitude was contagious during our stay. In neighboring New Hampshire, the motto is: "Live Free Or Die." Vermont's should be: "Tie-dye A Shirt."

"Everyone is very laid back until you decide to put some new awning on your house or put up a new mailbox. Then everyone is in your business," Boardman said. "Vermonters do not like change and have plenty to say about it."

Boardman pointed to the top of a nearby mountain where I could barely make out the windmill-like turbines in a wind farm. They looked like some sort of art installation. How much more environmentally friendly could you get?

"You would not believe the fight that went on over those wind turbines," Boardman said. "People raised holy hell over it."

"So I should not bring up my idea for a putting in a fracking farm next door to Ethan Allen's home while I'm up here, huh?" I said.

"Don't even say the word 'frack' while you are here," Boardman said.

"Well, I guess I'd better get the frack back to Florida," I said. "We aren't quite finished killing all the oysters in Apalachicola Bay. There is work to be done."

Behind the Scenes at 2015 Ranger Training

People tell us all the time how wonderful our staff is, and we thought that this week we’d give you a behind-the-scenes look into what being a member of our staff means. For those of you who weren’t aware, this past week was 2015 Vermont State Parks Ranger Training, a rigorous 3-day event during which your Park Rangers learn everything from “Conservation Awareness” to “Equipment Maintenance.” Rangers were expected to Relax, Participate, and Communicate throughout their training in order to learn how to better Observe, Interpret, and Protect in the parks. The purpose of this intensive and hands-on learning is to get all of your Rangers on the same page before the summer rush begins: to prepare them for your arrival and everything that entails!

I was lucky enough to go along for the ride, and here’s a brief glimpse into what our Rangers went through in just a few days:

Rangers old and new flooded the training venue, picked up their name badges, and were introduced to their fellow Rangers and park staff. Without hesitation, their education began with an overview of park rules and regulations and (most importantly) the reasoning behind them. All classes were led by seasoned Rangers and regional managers, and their cumulative years of experience made the process all the more effective and pleasant: questions were asked and thoroughly answered, and no query was too small to deserve attention. An open, candid atmosphere was immediately apparent and made way for great communication between returning Rangers, the new guys, and park staff throughout the entire training process.

After a brief break and lunch hour, everybody got right back into it with a talk about “Vermont Conservation Issues, Past and Present.” We learned about how Vermont has used and protected its land,
from the Abenaki to the Republic of Vermont to our park system today. With some personal trivia thrown in (Regional Ranger Supervisor Tom has eaten a salamander and enjoys flute music; Regional Manager Maria knows her way around a fire truck) the class was both entertaining and full of great information about the state of Vermont, and how that relates to our Rangers’ management of the parks.

After classes, the Rangers split into groups to discuss region-specific issues related to the topics covered throughout the day, and reconvened after dinner for what was by far the highlight of Ranger Training 2015: Enforcement Training and Scenarios. The new Rangers were paired up and had to pass through a gauntlet of park staff who enacted various situations the Rangers might see in the parks, ranging from likely to highly improbable. It mainly involved approaching campers to quiet down late at night, but the staff who were pretending to be the “campers” were instructed to become rather stubborn as the Rangers worked their way through the scenarios. After each group diffused the situation at a station, a regional manager would go through their choices and how they had dealt with the pseudo-campers, pointing out what worked and offering suggestions to make their actions even more effective in the future.


All the Rangers were up and ready to go by 7:00am, and started the day with a course about the Vermont State Parks computer systems followed by a discussion about Risk Management.  I was consistently impressed with how well the instructors boiled down the material in ways that provided the highest quality of learning without getting bogged down in extraneous detail or becoming tedious. Parks Project Coordinator Frank Spaulding effectively educated everyone in the most important duty the Rangers take on: your personal safety in the parks, and how we can allow everyone to have the best time possible while visiting. The take-away was that the Vermont State Parks really operate on a minimalist approach to rule-making: rules that can’t or won’t be enforced simply don’t help anyone, and have no place in our parks.

After a break, the Rangers came back for the remainder of their classes, which took up the rest of the day: Hazard Correction and Emergency Preparedness. Nobody, guests and staff alike, want emergencies to happen at the parks, but of course these things need to be addressed so that we can serve you better—and boy, were they addressed. After sitting through the training our Rangers have to go through to prepare them for any number of situations, I will be entering the parks this summer knowing that each and every one of them has the knowledge to keep everyone safe, and knows exactly what to do in the event of an accident.

Later that evening the Management Team made themselves available for a roundtable Q&A, and opened the floor to the Rangers to ask questions and suggest changes. After a great talk about the potential for composting in the parks and the reasoning behind our firewood regulations (you have to use Vermont firewood because it prevents invasive insects from getting into our forests!) everyone was more than ready to wind down in front of the campfire.

The last day of training was on-site at Gifford Woods State Park, and gave our Rangers an in-depth education about how to manage the buildings, grounds, and office, as well as how to operate and maintain the equipment necessary to do so. Even after two long days of classes and workshops, everyone readily listened to proper bathroom-scrubbing protocols and learned how to mix gasoline for their leaf blowers. After lunch and a quick group photo, it was time to head home.

I’ll be honest: before I joined our Rangers for their training, I figured “how hard could it be?” You get a green collared shirt and get to spend your whole summer outside! After seeing everything that Ranger Training entails, and what will be asked of them on a daily basis out at our amazing State Parks, I have certainly changed my tune. These aren’t just people wearing green shirts; they are not only fully prepared and highly educated outdoorspeople, but are also competent, respectful, and genuine human beings. You can rest assured that your visit to Vermont State Parks has been carefully thought-out by many, many people behind the scenes—our Rangers go through this training and do a lot of hard work to make your vacation as special as it can possibly be.

So there you have it…the parks are gearing up, the sun is coming out, and the rangers are more than ready—are you?

See you at the parks!

By Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Firewood Update - Buy Local, Burn Local

It’s time to dust off your sleeping bag, fold up your tent, and pack up that camp kitchen!  All Vermont State Parks will be open soon and we can’t wait to see you, whether you plan on swimming, toasting marshmallows, or just enjoying your great escape.  

 As you prepare for your outdoor adventures, there is one thing you should leave off your packing checklist: firewood.  Bringing firewood from home can endanger the beauty of your favorite camping spots by unknowingly introducing tree diseases and insect pests when you move firewood around in your travels.

What can you do? Please don’t bring firewood with you—buy local, burn local. You already carefully extinguish your campfire, clean up your campsite, and recycle your trash, and now we are encouraging you to be a conscientious camper when it comes to firewood.  Rules regulating the importation of untreated firewood into Vermont will be adopted in 2015.  Spread the word!

Dry firewood is available for sale at your favorite state park, or you can pick up a bundle at a nearby country store when you stop to get a fresh bag of marshmallows.  Save the special places you love and buy your firewood where you burn it.       

Monday, April 27, 2015

Proposed Fee & Rule 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 or mail at Craig Whipple, Vermont State Parks, 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2, Montpelier, VT  05620. Comments will be accepted until June 2, 2015

You are also invited to attend a public meeting about these proposed changes, Friday, May 29, 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:

Day Use
  • Adult Day Use fee to $4
  • Group Day Use fee to $3
  • Individual Pass to $30
  • Vehicle Pass (first for household) to $90; Vehicle Pass (second for household) to $50

Boat Rentals
  • Canoes, kayaks and row boats to $10/per hour; $30/per half-day; $40/full day
  • Pedal boats to $7/per half hour
  • Boat rental with remote campsite to $35/per night

Overnight Lodging
  • Reservation fee to $7
  • Use of entire Seyon Lodge to $1,500/per night + VT Rooms &; Meals Tax

  • Island Runner to $7/per camper and $3/per day user
You can read a complete list of annotated rules here. Thank you for your continued support of the parks!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wilgus State Park Itinerary - Opening April 27th!

In honor of our first Park Opening of the 2015 Season, we’ve prepared a Wilgus State Park Itinerary for everybody who just can’t wait to take advantage of the parks! 

Weekend Itinerary:

Friday evening: arrive, unpack, and unwind in the natural peace and quiet of Wilgus State Park.

Saturday morning: Early breakfast! You’ll need to fuel up for your day.

Adventure by land: Hike to the Mt. Ascutney Observation Tower! The 24.5 foot tower provides hikers with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and is located near the summit on the Windsor and Brownsville Trails. The tower was constructed from sections of the original Mt. Ascutney fire tower, which was used for fire surveillance until 1952. The park and auto road open May 18.

How to get there: from the upper parking lot on the Mt. Ascutney Parkway, visitors can hike to the summit of Mt. Ascutney via the Slot (.64 miles) or Slab (.55 miles) Trails. If you’re looking for a longer day, these trails do connect with the Windsor (2.7 mi), Weathersfield (2.9 mi) and Brownsville Trails (3.2 mi). Excellent views are enjoyed from Brownsville Rock, Castle Rock, West Peak, and the observation tower. The Slab trail is recommended for hikers seeking the least strenuous route and is marked with yellow diamond blazes. (Although this is the easiest route to the top, sturdy shoes and water are still necessary, as hikers will gain nearly 350 feet in elevation on this short trail.) If you follow this route to the summit, return the same way.

**A picnic lunch at any of the scenic destinations around Mt. Ascutney is a great option if you plan to hike any of the longer summit trails!**

Adventure by sea: Ok, it’s not exactly the sea, but it’s the Connecticut River! Starting Memorial Day weekend, In partnership with North Star Canoe Outfitters, you can rent a canoe or kayak and spend a whole or half day on the pristine waters of the Connecticut River. 

How it works: Sign up in person or by phone by 6pm the day before your trip. Meet at the Pavilion in Wilgus at your scheduled time (either 9:15am or 1pm) and take a shuttle up river to begin your trek! Visit the site for pricing and details.

Back at the Park: Enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch on the river bank, and maybe some fishing…

If you are an adult party and didn’t spend the whole day out at the mountain or on the river, you might think about visiting Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, just a fifteen minute drive north of Wilgus State Park. Whether it’s just for dinner at The Riverbend Taps & Beer Garden or you take a brewery tour, it’s a great place to unwind after a day spent outside in the sun! Visit the site for menus and tour schedules.


Because we know you didn’t get enough, why not end your trip with the Pinnacle Trail: an easy, one-mile loop located across from the campground. The hike provides a scenic view of the Connecticut River Valley.

Back at camp, enjoy some riverside lounging, fishing, and lunching, or break camp and check out some historic sites located in Windsor on your way home: 

The Constitution House State Historic Site is a great place to explore Vermont history, and The Old Constitution House features period rooms that reflect its use as an early tavern. A large interpretive area in the early 20th century tea room examines the events surrounding the signing of the Vermont Constitution. 

The American Precision Museum is an amazing place for anyone interested in engineering—The Museum preserves the heritage of the mechanical arts, celebrates the ingenuity of our mechanical forebears, and explores the effects of their work on our everyday lives. Housed in the original Robbins & Lawrence Armory, the American Precision Museum now holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.

Lastly (for those of you are interested) here's a bit of history about the park: the land that makes up Wilgus State Park was given to the state of Vermont in 1933 by Colonel and Mrs. William Wilgus. Colonel Wilgus, born in 1865, was an internationally famous civil engineer whose career paralleled the development of modern transportation. Colonel Wilgus received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work as Deputy Director of General Transportation, and his ideas helped create the Detroit River Tunnel. The original park, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, consisted of a picnic area with large flue-type stone fireplaces, picnic tables, and the ranger's quarters.
Around 1960, expansion of the campground began, paving the way for Wilgus State Park to become a popular destination for canoers, kayakers, and hikers alike.

Today, there are 4 cabins with wifi connection, 17 tent/RV sites, and 6 lean-to sites which are located along the river bank. The park also features a picnic area and shelter (no charge for small group reservations!), 3 lean-tos in the group area, canoe and kayak rental, one rest room with running water, and hot showers. 

All in all, Wilgus State Park offers an awesome range of activities sure to please everyone in your party. We hope to see you out there this weekend, whether on the river, at the summit of Mt. Ascutney, or winding down at your campsite!

By Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks