Natural History

Hubbard Park History
In 1899 Hubbard Park was established when John E. Hubbard bequeathed to the city of Montpelier 125 acres in order to "preserve wilderness" for future generations. Responding to the request in Hubbard's will, thte city helped establish and elected Park Commission to plan for the park's future, oversee its use, and to honor Hubbard's wishes. The commission hired landscape architect Dana. F. Dow who suggested an informal use of the land and mapped out roads and plantings. Roads were to follow the natural surface as much as possible.

Since then, several other parcels have been added to the park, including 50 acres that was given by "Bud" Heney and his family. Recently, another 9 acres of land has been added to a previously narrow section of Hubbard Park. Support funding from VHCB was key in making this purchase possible. Now Hubbard Park is about 194 acres with approximately 7 miles of hiking and skiing trails, 2 picnic shelters, numerous picnic areas, a soccer and ball field, a small pond, a sledding hill, and a 54 foot stone observation tower.


The Tower
In a report submitted in April 1908, Mr. Dow presented his ideas for the park including the building of an observatory on a summit. The highest point was Capitol Hill land owned by Jesse S. Viles (former owner of the Pavilion Hotel) just outside the Park holdings. The idea for the observatory was well received and must have won over Mr. Viles, for in 1911 he deeded this parcel along with "a strip of land three rods wide" for an approach to the park (Hubbard Park Drive).
Actual work on the observation tower began in 1915. The stone and cement tower was built over a period of 16 years for a total cost of nearly $8000. The stones came from old stone wall fences that used to mark off the hillside in the days when Capitol Hill was open pasture. In your walks through the woods today you can stils come across lengths of old stone fences. 
To the right and below you can see pictures of Hubbard Park taken in 1874, 1927, and 1955. The images show the area mostly bare of trees before being donated as a park in 1899. Earlier pictures show horses grazing of grassy hillside, with an occasional tree lined fence line and patches of conifers.
From the tower several tiers of mountain ranges may be seen on a clear day. While much of downtown Montpelier is obstructed by a stand of pine trees planted in 1920 on the slope below the tower, in 1990 a clearing was created in the immediate area of the tower to provide some protection for the views. 

Park Improvements
Over the years, much work has contributed to the infrastructure of the Park. In the 1930's buildings, road and fireplaces were improved and constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of Perry H. Merrill. In the late 1960's a youth group constructed a nature trail under the direction of Norman Hudson, the County Forester. A grant from the Bureau of Outdoor recreation bought the Park a new picnic area and shelter, parking areas, Portal Field (a softball diamond and soccer field) and several picnic tables and grills. The fitness trail was constructed in 1985. In 1990 the 50 year old iron stairway up the tower was replaced along with general refurbishing of the tower to maintain its safety and integrity. 
50 acres were added to the park in 1990. William Heney and his family kindly donated the land, which includes a significant deer yard, while developing residential housing on land adjoining Hubbard Park. 

An interesting history of John Hubbard's legacy can be found at https://vermonthistory.org/journal/68/vt681_203.pdf
View of the capital in 1874
An aerial view of Hubbard Park that shows the area bare of trees in 1927
An aerial view of Hubbard Park taken in 1955
Natural Features
The park shows a diversity of habitats including meadows, softwood and hardwood stands, swamps, thickets and rocky outcroppings. The park contains several impressive stands of white pine, red pine and hemlock. The center area of Hubbard Park is a designated natural area. In certain areas of the park, notably near the tower, can be found majestic red oaks, even more remarkable given they are on the northern edge of their range. A number of impressive beech trees can also be found in the Park. Many, many young beech can be found (as well as white ash), in a number of areas of the Park, which are examples of succession to the climax stage of forest.

Birch Grove
Not too far from the tower a beautiful little white birch grove can be found. On the east side,down from the tower, an old fence row still has some ancient sugar maples clinging to life. Probably tapped early in their lives, they now have large sections of rotten wood, with twisted patches of intact bark bringing what nutrients are needed to,and from, the branches above.

Habitats Around Hubbard Park
Hubbard Park is home to the following natural habitats:
  • A small pond
  • Beech / maple and red oak trees
  • Several small brooks
  • Swamps
  • Thickets
  • White and red pine trees
  • Yellow birch / hemlock forests

A natural habitat formed in Hubbard Park
A large exposed rock located in Hubbard Park