Hello Burlington Neighbors –
How truly lucky we are to call Burlington our home. Together we enjoy the benefits of a vibrant downtown with a great selection of local restaurants serving food sourced from nearby farms, and great places to indulge that shopping bug. We can boast of a creative and engaging visual and performing arts community which offers opportunities to appreciate the work of committed and creative artists, and enjoy music, theater, comedy and drama. And we come together to celebrate as a community with events like the Festival of Fools, the South End Art Hop and the Vermont City Marathon. Along with all of this we enjoy many opportunities to spend time outside where we socialize, play and exercise in an array of city and neighborhood parks, and ride or walk along a nationally recognized greenway and bike path paralleling the beautiful shores of Lake Champlain.
But Burlington has even more to offer – a hidden natural treasure of open and wild spaces. Because of the city’s extensive undevelopable floodplain and other key parcels of land, Burlington’s footprint includes a truly remarkable 49% of its overall area in open space. And fully 25% of that open space is in a natural state as either woodlands or wetlands; natural areas that include ecologically and agriculturally rich river floodplain, globally rare plants and wildlife corridors traveled by bobcat, fisher, moose, fox and mink. Yes, we have fishers and bobcats as neighbors! Despite being integral to our city, many of these natural areas have few signs to help visitors find their way, or appreciate their diversity, and many haphazard and unconnected trails traversing their landscapes. If you do find your way into these special areas it can, in fact, be difficult to navigate your way back out.
With this realization in mind, a strategic alliance of conservation and civic minded groups (The Conservation Board, the Department of Parks Recreation & Waterfront, the Winooski Valley Parks District, Rock Point and the Intervale Center) has been working to take the first steps toward a long-term goal of developing a citywide network of conserved natural areas, with guided access provided by a system of connected and consistently signed and maintained trails. Supported by a June 2017 resolution from the Burlington City Council, the alliance held a Green & Natural Spaces Summit in December of 2017 bringing together more than fifty landowners, conservationists, city and state officials, wildlife scientists, professional land managers, local land trusts, and citizens who volunteer in conservation to discuss shared values and the potential to work together to achieve goals of stewardship, conservation and connection for the wild and natural spaces in our city.
In the months since the summit a newly renamed Burlington Wildways coalition brought a presentation about the amazing wealth of green and natural spaces within our borders to each of the city’s NPA’s where it received broad interest, enthusiastic calls for support and investment, and expressions of genuine surprise that Burlington includes these hidden natural gems.
For 2018 Burlington Wildways plans to accomplish several smaller-scale projects in support of other conservation/connection initiatives – interpretive and informational signage as part of planned trail improvements in the Intervale, assistance in the restoration of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting the Intervale to the Ethan Allen Homestead, and developing a comprehensive map of the already existing networks of trails in Burlington. All the while Burlington Wildways will continue to build connections to others in our community who value stewardship and conservation as we look toward a future where the wonders and benefits of our natural lands are more available to all Burlington’s citizens. Keep a look out for a new logo and website and more progress updates in the coming months.
Written by Richard Deane