Projects & People
Winter, Winter, Winter!
Monday December 30, 2013
Written by: Stephanie Olsen
Winter. What a beautiful time in Vermont. Snow freshly covering the ground and draped on the trees gives the woods and Montpelier a cozy New England feel. Winter is an exciting time here at Hubbard Park. As my second term as an AmeriCorps member at the Parks department here in Montpelier carries on, I have heard so many folks talk about the adventures they have in Hubbard Park and North Branch River Park during the winter and how much they enjoy winter time at the parks. So to get everyone excited for winter and all of the fun that comes with it, I will be writing about one winter activity and my adventure during that activity every Monday of December!
Ice on Fire Celebration
For my last "Winter, Winter, Winter" story, I wanted to write about Ice on Fire. When I got to Montpelier, I kept hearing people talk about Ice on Fire and how unique it was. I was told that one of my responsibilities as an AmeriCorps member serving at the park was to help out with the set up of Ice on Fire. I was excited and intrigued about this winter solstice event.
Igloos, Tree Mazes, Snowshoe Races and a huge bon fire? This was going to be fun. I worked with somewhere between 20-40 youth volunteers from different organizations and school groups to build structures out of snow and to put up recycled christmas trees that would all be part of this loved event. Weeks before was spent cutting out snow blocks, piling up snow and hollowing out the middle, and building chairs and arches out of snow. The hard work put into these weeks was seen in the field at the North Branch Nature Center. As I build and prepared more and more, the more my excitement grew.
January 27, 2012... The day was here! My first Ice on Fire celebration. So many people came out to the event and seemed to be excited about all of the hard work my volunteers and myself have put into the event. I had a blast myself! The stories being told were fascinating, It was great to see children and their families exploring the Tree Maze, and the bon fire was even more magical than I could have imagined! I could not believe how many people came out the the event. Now that I am in my second term, I am so excited to start preparing for Ice on Fire. I cannot wait to get community members and school groups involved in this fantastic celebration! Look for upcoming announcements for Ice on Fire and come on out!
The Sledding Hill! As a kid, sledding down a snowy slope, racing my brother was one of the finest memories of winter! As I do projects here and there through out the park and pass the sledding hill, I almost always see someone cruising down the sledding hill in Hubbard Park. One cold day at the end of February, I decided I wanted to be part of the many people who have slid down the hill. I have heard so many stories from teens that I have worked with, from AmeriCorps members, and just community members in Montpelier. All of them have had the same response to my question of... "What was it like?"... All of them have said.... "Best sledding hill EVER!"
I knew by that response, if I was to leave Montpelier without sledding down the hill in Hubbard, I would miss one of the best sledding experiences ever. I climbed up the hill with a sled in my hand.... At the bottom of the hill I said to myself, "This is going to be great! I can't wait!" Half way up the hill.... "How high is this hill?! Oh well, It is still going to be great!" On top of the hill (as I am setting my sled on the ground) "uhhh! This should be called Sledding MOUNTAIN... This should still be great! I hope...."
I put my sled right on the top of the hill and get ready to sled down this HUGE hill! I jump on the sled push off.... My sled picks up speed... On top of the hill I am thinking, "Ohhhhhh man!!!!!!!!! WOAH!!! WOAH!!" Half way down the hill." THIS IS GREAT!!!!" And at the bottom of the hill, I am laughing and getting up to go and do it again! All I could say is that it really is the best sledding hill ever!
I recommend, no matter what age you are, to grab the closest sled to you and to take at least an hour and have some fun! Sledding brings out the little kid in you. I could have almost looked over and saw my little brother Andrew next to me on a Red Sled trying to beat me to the bottom on the sledding hill in my town. As you could guess, I always won our sledding contests! I am sure that if you ask him who won... He would say HE always won... but all in all, take some time and go sledding in Hubbard Park this winter!
Cross Country Skiing
Lucky for me, I went to a college where they made learning how to cross country ski mandatory. Last winter, I took part in helping to keep the trails in Hubbard Park and North Branch River Park groomed for skiers. Towards the end of winter I decided that I should test my skills on the trail. I hoped I was not as rusty as I thought I was... but found out, I was pretty rusty! I guess not having to gotten out cross country skiing in a year or two had put me really out of practice. Still determined to have fun, I set out on the trail.
I started my way up towards Seven Fireplaces from the New Shelter. Level ground seemed to agree with me. Being on skis is a great way to travel in snow! It is a wonderful feeling to glide over snow that you would normally sink in up to your knees. It is also such a pleasant experience because you can pick your speed. I started off at a reasonably speed so I could both get used to being back on skis and to enjoy the snow-kissed land around me.
As I came to the first hill down, I was a bit nervous that I was going to veer off the trail to be honest. I had a successful run on the small hill going towards Seven Fireplaces. I was surrounded by Chickadees singing and even heard a Kinglet singing in the trees above me. I worked my way up the hill only falling once or twice. It seemed like I was at the beginner stages of Cross Country skiing but still managed to have a great laugh each time I fell, only wishing to get back up and continue my journey and improving my skills.
Getting to the top of the hill and being reminded how beautiful Seven Fireplaces is in the winter is something that seemed to be magnified that day. I skied around and the area and decided to face the larger hill decending from Seven Fireplaces. As I got to the top, I knew this was going to be difficult, but went for it anyway!
I slipped and slide down the first half of the hill but still got back up. Towards the bottom I was able to make it down without falling. The best part was, I was laughing and having a great time. Although I do not have any pictures from that day, it still stays fresh and wonderful in my memory! This is a great way to keep active and explore trails during the winter. If you are a beginner, fear not! This activity will be fun for you while you are learning! For those who have experience, I encourage you to give out tips to those of us who have just started picking up the sport. I also encourage you to keep a mind of a naturalist turned on while out there! There is so many things that you can see during winter that might be missed!
Look for next week's winter adventure to be posted!
Because I have majored in Conservation Ecology and focused on Wildlife Management, I LOVE tracking wildlife. Winter is a wonderful time to track wildlife and the snow holds a great story of what that animal was doing. One of the best ways to track wildlife and identify what animals roams the forests is by Snowshoeing. Here is one of my snowshoeing adventures from last winter...
A great place to wildlife track and snowshoe is at the North Branch River Park. When I got out tracking, I usually take notes on what I have found and the weather conditions that I am tracking in. The day was Saturday January 5, 2013. The skies were blue but the temperatures were cold. Winds were still and the air temperature was about 11 degrees. I strapped my snowshoes on at around 2:30 p.m. and headed out to the North Branch River Park. Cold enough to have a scarf to cover up my nose, gloves to protect my fingers, and a heavy pink Carhartt jacket to keep me warm but not cold enough to keep me indoors.
I hiked for about 2 hours before calling it a day. Two hours brought many stories and many of Vermont's wildlife left behind for me to figure out. I headed up the trail to find quickly a White-Trailed Deer run going across the trail. I veered off the trail to follow the run to get a good idea of where the deer were traveling too. While traveling alongside the trail, I found evidence of deer munching along the way. Indents in the snow showed where weary deer took a nap in the snow to restore energy to help them survive through the winter. Usually, these beds were located under conifer trees where temperatures were just slightly warmer. Eventually, trails led to a water source and an apple tree nestled in the woods, with the hope of hidden apples under the snow.
I was also able to find Bobcat tracks traveling in a straight line through the park! How exciting! I do know that North Branch Nature Center has caught bobcat photos on their game camera. I wondered if this cat I was following was the same one captured on the camera. Other tracks found were Red Squirrel, Northern Raccoon, and Fisher! What an exciting day! Another track found which intrigues me is a small mouse going in and out of tunnels in the snow. The tunnels exposed are exciting to see! It amazes me that animals such as Red Foxes and Barred Owls can hear these small animals in their snow tunnels traveling from one food cache to another. With their sharp sense of hearing, they dive into the snow where the mouse is and snatch it up for a well earned meal.
For about 20 minutes I also watched a Downy Woodpecker excavate a dead limb for any scrap of food. Twenty minutes of observing this bird in it's natural habitat, it flew off to another location and I traveled onward. Snowshoeing is a great way to see Vermont's wildlife in a different way. It also provides great exercise and motivation in the winter months. I recommend grabbing a pair of snowshoes and heading out to the woods. You will be amazed with how much animal activity you can find.
Look forward to another fun adventure next week!
International Volunteers for Peace 2013
July, 24th 2013
Written by: Stephanie Olsen, AmeriCorps VISTA
Since the first week of July, we have been lucky enough to have a group of 9 International Volunteers for Peace for three week serving with the Parks Department. They will be departing from Montpelier and finishing their service this coming Saturday When coming here, none of the volunteers knew each other and came from all over the world. We have 2 volunteers from Spain (Irene and Imanol), 2 volunteers from Russia (Oksana and Pavel), 2 volunteers from China (Shelly and Michelle), 1 volunteer from Turkey (Onur), 1 volunteer from South Korea (Jiwon), and a volunteer leader from Azerbaijan (Zulfyyia).
In the past 2 weeks, a lot has been accomplished by the volunteers. It has been amazing to see the transformation of both the lesser known Parallel Trail and hidden Blanchard Park. The Parallel Trail has been in the beginning stages of becoming a known and hiker friendly trail in the beginning of this summer. This trail is hoping to get hikers off of the park roads and into the woods while keeping a close proximity to the road. With two weeks of help from the Volunteers for Peace, the trail is just about done and will be ready to be used by walkers, hikers and naturalists by the end of the next week or two!
Blanchard Park is located on Wilder Street and looks over the city of Montpelier. Not many residents know about Blanchard Park. The park will be fixing it up and building a rustic play area for the River Rock School and other children and families in Montpelier. The International Volunteers for Peace has raised the trail and build extensive drainages to shed water off of the trail. The international volunteers has moved about 2 ton of rock by bucket up the hill along with hundreds of buckets of gravel up the trail by bucket to mitigate the trail. We are looking to continue working through the summer to finish Blanchard Park.
Other tasks include pulling a massive amount of Tartarian Honeysuckle from North Branch River Park, Weeding the gardens in the Peace Park, cleaning drainages all around Hubbard Park, Tower landscaping, and mowing lawns at Hubbard Park
Working with these volunteers has been an extreme pleasure for all of the park staff and community members of Montpelier. They have done an incredible job with Blanchard Park and the Parallel Trail. They should be very proud of themselves and of their whole entire group. Working at the park has brought them together and hopefully made their time working a memorable experience.
We would also like to extend a thank you to Sarducci's, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, Montpelier Recreation Department, River Rock School, Community Connections and the Vermont Mountaineers for donations. We would also like to thank all of the community members who donated snacks, stories and a hot meal to the international volunteers!
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