Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Boat Greeter Coming to Waterbury Reservoir This Summer

This summer, if you launch your canoe, kayak or motorboat from the Blush Hill Access area on Waterbury Reservoir, chances are you'll meet a Boat Greeter. The greeter will provide information about the reservoir and educate users about what they can do to keep the lake free from invasive aquatic species.

The program is made possible by a grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to Friends of Waterbury Reservoir, a non-profit group committed to protecting and enhancing the ecological, recreational and community values of the Waterbury Reservoir.

The Friends of Waterbury Reservoir is currently accepting applications for the Boat Greeter position, which will be part time, a couple of days a week from May - September. You can view the complete job description, or to application here.

Since the funding isn't enough to cover the costs of the program, Friends of Waterbury Reservoir is also accepting donations. You can also donate to the boat greeter program here. 

You can learn more about Friends of Waterbury Reservoir by visiting their website: http://www.friendsofwaterburyreservoir.org/

And don't forget, Waterbury Reservoir State Park will open for day use on May 20th!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Have You Seen Me?

Local moth species, Archiearis infans, also known as The Infant. Day-flier. Reliable sign of early spring. Last spotted resting by a local trail near Coolidge State Park. Good at hiding unless disturbed so look carefully! 

The Infant 
Photo Credit: Jeremy DeWaard, University of British Columbia

Nickname: The Infant
Identifying features: Size of a quarter, orange marks on wings, often mistaken for a butterfly. 
Wanted for questioning on an unrelated fly-by. Not considered a danger to the public at this time. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

You’re Invited to an Open House and Public Meeting to discuss Molly’s Falls State Park

Who: Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Vermont Fish & Wildlife, and members of the public who have an interest in Molly’s Falls/ Marshfield Reservoir

When: Thursday April 21, 2016
5:30- 7:00pm: Open House and Public Comment
7:00-9:00pm: Presentation and Public Comment
Where: 3rd Floor Auditorium, Town Offices, Cabot Vermont

Do you live in Central Vermont? Have you used Molly’s Falls in the past? Do you care about the management of Vermont’s natural resources?

This is a great chance for the public to be involved in the management of our newest state park, Molly’s Falls, to ask questions and to comment. Attendees and members of the public will also have the opportunity to complete a survey on how they use the reservoir and surrounding area.

Molly’s Falls Pond (Marshfield Pond) is a reservoir located just 14.8 miles from Barre, VT in the rural town of Cabot in north-central Vermont. The area is a working landscape of farms and forests, and is home to the 26,000-acre Groton State Forest, which boasts 7 state parks, numerous lakes, ponds and bogs, recreational trails, and hunting and camping opportunities.

Molly’s Falls Pond property consists of 1064 acres including the 411-acre pond. U.S. Route 2 traverses the northern edge of the property and there is a dam at the western end of the reservoir that is owned by Green Mountain Power Company. A Vermont Fish and Wildlife Access Area at the northern end of the property includes a concrete ramp for trailered boat access to the pond and two fishing platforms for shore fishing.

This 411-acre lake is largely undeveloped and is an excellent spot for swimming, boating and fishing. Anglers will find a variety of fish including rainbow trout, brown trout, northern pike, pickerel, small mouth bass and yellow perch here.  Camping and picnicking along the shores has been a long tradition with the informal development of approximately 10 sites.

There is a wetland along the southern shore that is a spruce-fir wetland that is not ecologically state-significant. The shoreline provides access for wildlife such as moose, deer and shoreline nesting habitat for waterfowl. The Common Loon has been on the pond for a number of years. There is important ecological linkage with the mostly forested habitat for wildlife between the pond and Groton State Forest to the south.

The primary values of this property are for its recreational uses and wildlife habitat values.

Come out on Thursday to talk to FPR and Fish & Wildlife staff, and participate in the conversation! Contact: Susan Bulmer, Northeast Parks Regional Manager at   susan.bulmer@vermont.gov

***Even if you don't go to the meeting, we still want your opinions on Molly's Falls! Click here to complete the survey.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Guest Blog: Vermont State Parks and All4One Partnership- Park Fun Club! by Kelsey Finnell

As an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) member, most of the work I do for Vermont State Parks on the Muckross project and day camp is behind the scenes.  I’ve been designing curriculum, writing grants, and applying for the state parks to sponsor an AmeriCorps NCCC Team for a second summer, all of which are done out of the Springfield office.   

The Muckross Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation Day Camp is part of an ongoing process to integrate a new state park into the community of Springfield, Vermont.  The park and camp are the vision of the late State Senator Edgar May, who hoped to transform his 204 acre estate (“Muckross”) into a state park that offers the community opportunities for recreation, environmental education, and access to the natural world.  The camp serves children in 1st-8th grades, and ran a successful pilot program in July and August of 2015.  Our mission is “to provide a safe, natural environment where any child, regardless of economic and social circumstance, can experience hands-on environmental education and outdoor recreation.”  We are currently busy getting ready for our 2016 session!  The indirect service work that I do on the camp is important, but on Wednesdays I get the chance to engage in direct service with one of our main partners, All4One, by running an afterschool “Park Fun” club for some of their students.

All4One is a local nonprofit childcare program whose mission is “to support, strengthen and sustain before/after and summer school programs while promoting skills development and academic achievement through high yield learning available to ALL students in the Springfield School District.”  Children who attend our summer day camp sign up through this program, and they provide us with personnel and material support.  For 2016, we are expanding the partnership between Vermont State Parks and All4One to last throughout the year.  One of our aims with the day camp is to have students feel a sense of ownership and place in the park and their community; and Park Fun Club is a way for us to allow students to help make decisions for the upcoming summer camp.  This brings student participation and ownership to a new level. 

We had a successful pilot run of Park Fun Club in the fall of 2015, and are continuing to meet on Wednesdays from 4:00pm-5:00pm for All4One’s winter and spring club sessions.  Club members get to try out Muckross activities in advance, and voice ideas and opinions over what should be included in the 2016 summer curriculum.  Katerina Fluharty, a Vermont Youth Tomorrow VISTA serving with All4One, and I collaborate each week to prepare state park focused activities for the club. 

Scheduling activities is often difficult, as we have children ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade in the club.  We have to identify how to make activities more difficult for the older club members, without making them too hard for the younger club members.  This is excellent “balancing” practice for the summer, as we have to think on our feet to keep students engaged and excited about what they doing.

Activities that club members particularly enjoyed were making boats and “nature people” out of natural materials and craft supplies, Vermont animal charades, working in the State Park Junior Ranger Booklet, and heading outside to paint natural scenes with watercolors.  As the weather gets warmer, we plan to spend more time outside and learn about plants that can be found in Vermont State Parks.

We run all of these activities out of All4One’s Park Street School site, which means we often have to improvise to provide environments that mimic the natural world.  For example, in the summer we could test boats in a pond, but during the school year we put them in a small pool of water.  The club members were excited to test their boats in general, but were even more excited when they learned that they could save the boats to be used on a pond during the summer!

When planning activities we try to focus on educational skills in addition to having fun.  For example, in fall club, we had students write stories that took place in nature.  We will combine these stories with those written at the day camp to start a “story trail” at the park!

We encourage club members to think critically about outdoor recreation activities like camping, by discussing healthy food options and what supplies to bring.  We allow students to share their experiences with the outdoors, and speak about what nature-based activities they like the best. 

At the Muckross Day Camp during the summer, we aim to bring environmental education and hands-on learning to children who otherwise would not have this opportunity.  We hope to continue this with Park Fun Club.  Through our activities club members and campers learn the importance of our natural resources, and feel a sense of ownership and place within the community.  As someone who is usually “behind the scenes;” I love that I get the chance to head outside and hang out with the kids once a week!  Their ideas will directly contribute to our summer planning, and they inspire me to create a curriculum that they will both enjoy and benefit from.  Spending time with the kids at All4One reminds me why we are creating the Muckross Day Camp, and I always leave looking forward to the upcoming summer!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mud Season Hiking -- What You Need to Know

When the snow starts melting and the temperatures get warmer, most of us want to get outside and hike! But, mud season is not a good time for hiking in certain areas. Rain and melting snow at higher elevations are keeping many of Vermont's hiking trails wet and muddy. When hikers tramp on saturated soils, they cause soil compaction and erosion as well as damage to the trail and surrounding vegetation. Please help protect the fragile trails this time of year by staying off muddy trails.

Higher elevation soils take longer to dry out. And after winter, and heavy spring rains, the trails will take longer than normal to firm up.  A trail may seem dry at the trailhead, but is muddy at a higher elevation this time of year. If you notice this happening, please turn around! Trails at lower elevations, dirt roads, and recreation paths provide excellent places for early spring walking.

Below is a list of great places to hike during mud season - enjoy!

Southeast Vermont:
Mt. Ascutney State Park Parkway (after mid April, when the ice has melted)
• Harriman Trail
West River Trail
Jamaica State Park Trails

Southwest Vermont:
Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail
Emerald Lake State Park roads
Button Bay State Park Bay Point Trail and Park Roads

Northwest Vermont:
Burlington Bike Path
The Austin Brook Trail in Warren/Granville
Travel Around Middlebury Trail (TAM)
Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail
Cotton Brook Area - Moscow/Stowe
Alburgh Recreation Trail
Mallets Bay Causeway
Cambridge Greenway Recreation Path
Kingsland Bay State Park
Mount Philo State Park Road

Northeast Vermont:The Cross VT Trail - runs west to east across VT 
Thresher Hill; Pine Brook Trails
Liberty Hill; Contest Trails
Lefferts Pond
Robert Frost Interpretive Trail
Stowe Bike Path

Along with the warmer weather, there are many aspects of nature beginning to emerge for us to enjoy. Thank you for helping to preserve our beautiful natural resources!

Guidelines to follow when hiking this time of year
• If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back and seek another place to hike.
• Plan spring hikes in hardwood forests at lower elevations.
• Avoid spruce-fir (conifer) forest at higher elevations and on north slopes before late May and from the end of October until frozen or snow covered.
• Camels Hump and Mt Mansfield trails are closed from April 15 through the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. Please do not hike here. Stay below 3000 ft during these times of year.

Staying away from certain places during mud season makes them ready to enjoy this summer.

For more information, and other mud season hiking options, check out the Green Mountain Club Mud Season Hiking page.
Have fun out there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Operation Wildlife Cam: Where The Wild Things Are at Seyon Lodge by Tiffany Soukup

My husband, Chris, and I have been the Innkeepers at Seyon Lodge State Park for the past three years. One aspect we love most about working in Vermont State Parks is living in a 27,000 acre state forest and observing the animals that also call this forest home. This year that effort was aided further when Chris' parents gifted us a wildlife camera (we think they really wanted to see more animals of the forest!) So throughout this past season we have been placing it in different areas around the park. Here is a look at some of the animals we saw:

One of the first animals we got photos of was a moose. We see so many signs of moose activity every day. Hoof prints and droppings are everywhere, but to actually see a moose, that is a different story. Moose (alces alces) are the largest of the deer family and are surprisingly nimble for their size. Of the few times over the past couple years I have been lucky enough to see one in person, I am always amazed at how quietly they can move through the forest.

One of our favorite animals we got to observe this year was the beaver (castor canadensis). Known for almost always being busy, they are natures engineers. In the fall if you are staying at the lodge, that is a great time to try and catch a glimpse of them for yourself. Most of the year here at Noyes Pond, the beavers stay on the west end of the pond. In the fall if you go down quietly at dusk, a lot of times you can find them out of the water chomping on apples near the boat shed on the east end of the pond. They also eat leaves, bark, roots, aquatic plants and have transparent eyelids that function much like goggles.

Strolling through the woods the American Black Bear (ursus americanus) seemed to traverse this path although I have never seen a bear in real time around the lodge. Mostly solitary animals, bears are excellent tree climbers and can roam large territories from 15-80 square miles. They eat mostly grasses, roots, berries and insects although they are opportunistic eaters. They will eat fish, mammals, carrion and garbage. With increased human activity it is always very important to follow bear protocol and be responsible with your trash whether you are in a state park or at home in a suburban community.

Because they are so elusive and rarely seen, one of the most exciting animals to catch on the cam was a bobcat! Bobcats (felis rufus) roam throughout North America and can adapt well to various areas. They are about twice as big as the average house cat and are mostly nocturnal. They are named after their tail which appears to be cut or "bobbed."

 Any guests that have stayed at the lodge knows one of our most iconic animals is snowshoe hare (lepus americanus). In the spring once the young ones are old enough to venture out of their brushy den area, guests can routinely see them racing around the yard usually just before 7:00 am. This past summer we watched some little ones play hide and seek around the fire pit and one kept poking his head up from the hollowed out ground from behind big stones. The snowshoe hares will change color throughout the year as a defense against predators.

 A very clever animal, the coyote, (canis latrans) quietly makes it way through the woods. Coyotes are known for being adaptable and will eat just about anything from rodents, rabbits, carrion, snakes, insects and can run up to 40 mph.

Getting up close and personal, this white tailed deer, (odocoileus virginianus) seemed quite intrigued by the wildlife cam. People ask us all the time if the deer cause us any trouble with our organic garden, and thankfully so far, no.

As animal enthusiasts this wildlife camera has been an awesome and unobtrusive way to get a better idea of what animals we are sharing the trails with. Between the both of us, on average we probably walk the trails five times a week and often separately (because one of us will be back at the lodge cooking for guests) and with all that time spent on the trails, we have hardly seen these animals in person. To me it is a reminder just how important these lands are for the conservation of wildlife, even if we don't routinely see them ourselves.

It has been one of my great pleasures to be given the responsibility of overseeing the lodge and the surrounding grounds. Whether you come to this park walking on two legs or four, hopefully this park is a place of food and refuge. Seyon Lodge State Park is indeed a place where many come together to share in its beauty and for whatever amount of time, call this place home.

Tiffany Soukup is an Innkeeper, world traveler, writer and photographer. She has very much enjoyed calling Seyon Lodge State Park her home for the past few years. You can keep up with her adventures and wildlife findings at www.vagabondway.net.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter in our State Parks, by Rebecca Roy

I saw a red fox hunting mice in a snowy field in Allis State Park recently. I was out for a trail run in the snowy woods, and popped out into a meadow area. I caught the fox by surprise; it hid behind some winter weeds, and then made a mad dash for nearby woods.

Later, at a tracking workshop, I learned that red foxes not only use their keen sense of hearing to hunt for mice underneath the surface of the snow, but they also use Earth’s magnetic field to increase the accuracy of their pounces on prey. When foxes pounce in the Northeastern direction, they are successful in catching a mouse 73% of the time. In other directions the success rate is 18%. It was very exciting to see that red fox, and even more interesting to learn more about them soon afterwards. 

This was an adventure of learning and exploration sparked by an experience in a state park, and you can enjoy the same inspiration and curiosity by visiting your favorite state park in the winter too. Seeing that fox was made even more meaningful because foxes are the favorite animal of my four year old daughter, Alice.

Speaking of Alice, winter trips to parks are made even more meaningful by sharing them with her. This week we went to Boulder Beach State Park in Groton, and enjoyed all the things we love doing there in summer. We had a picnic, explored the playground equipment, played on the beach, and went sliding off the boulders. Okay, we do not usually bring a snow sled during the summer, and we normally pack swimsuits instead of snowsuits, but winter visits to state parks are just as fun, and even more special when the gates are closed.

We found extra secret spots that I never experienced in summer months, and we pretended to be explorers in the empty park. Besides the maintenance technicians working on improvements to the bathhouse, we were the only ones there that day. It felt like a secret treasure, a beautiful place all to us. If you are looking for midwinter inspiration, or your own grand adventure, bring a friend or relative to your favorite state park. 

Some other parks that are wonderful to visit in winter are Gifford Woods, Jamaica, Woodford, Button Bay, Sand Bar, and Little River. Get out into any park and you will not regret it!