Imagine this; you are in a grove of trees surrounded by persistent loud bird songs. You find the songsters and are rewarded with vibrant reds, blacks, yellows and oranges of orioles, redstarts and yellow warblers. A mink skitters across the rocks carrying a crayfish in its mouth. Spring peepers and wood frogs are calling, bobcat tracks are in the mud nearby. You must be in a wild place indeed!
This is an experience that any citizen can have on a spring day in one of Burlington’s natural areas thanks in part to an effort started close to 20 years ago, when the Burlington Conservation Board and the the City of Burlington approved an Open Space Plan. The plan set out to preserve and protect a variety of open and natural areas within the city. Along with the plan, voters approved the creation of our Conservation Legacy Fund that provides critical funding for land acquisition and stewardship. That fund has been crucial in preserving valuable open space. In the past two years alone, the legacy fund has aided three purchases: the Winooski Valley Park District’s purchase of floodplain forest at the mouth of Winooski River, a new city park on the former Burlington College lands, and the city’s acquisition of an open lot on Archibald Street to secure a much loved community garden.
The Conservation Board is now embarking on a process that we hope will encourage more citizens to get out into our natural areas. Though our natural areas are owned by a number of different landowners, there is connectivity for wildlife and ecological processes—and informal connectivity by hikers, bikers and walkers but you often have to be ‘in the know’ to navigate your way through the mostly unsigned network of informal trails. These areas have the potential to be enhanced, connected, expanded and well marked, increasing their value to residents, plants and wildlife. The board is working to encourage a well signed and connected set of natural areas and trails throughout the city and to remove trails where they are damaging fragile ecosystems. We encourage you to get out into the city’s wild spaces! For ideas on where to go, check out these websites:
Written by: Zoe Richards