New VRC Project Recognized by Willem Lange

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In his weekly Times Argus column, Willem Lange, a well-known Vermont writer, storyteller and avid paddler and hiker, recently recognized VRC’s current work to conserve a small parcel on the Kingsbury Branch in East Montpelier as well as on-going conservation of “traditional swimming holes, waterfalls, picturesque gorges, small-craft access points and wild riparian habitats all over the state”.  Thanks to Willem for his recognition of the Kingsbury Branch and other VRC projects.  We have included a portion of his column here.

…..For us members of the Geriatric Society, anticipating a couple of weeks in canoes up on the Arctic coast, it’s a time of e-mails (the current default mode of communication with folks north of 60 degrees) — canoe renters, charter pilots, satellite phone companies — and reflecting how much things have changed since the old days when messages traveled by snowshoe couriers in the winter and canoe brigades in the summer.

If I can talk her into it, Mother and I will take a couple of days in May, between the snow and black fly season (neither of which is for her an attractive feature of northern life) and paddle and camp along a local river: Connecticut, Missisquoi or Winooski. They’re all beautiful rivers; they all have native names; and they have different geological histories.

Whichever one we choose to paddle, we’ll be benefiting from the support and labor of at least a dozen organizations and hundreds of volunteers who monitor, clean and maintain the rivers for recreational users.

The Connecticut now boasts campsites for river travelers all the way from the headwaters to beyond the Massachusetts border; the Missisquoi is part of the already famous Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which stretches from Old Forge, N.Y., to Fort Kent, Maine; and the Winooski falls under the purview of the Friends of the Winooski, which runs an annual six-day trip down that river, featuring history — and natural science-related lectures along the way.

There’s one great organization that has its fingers in, if you will, all three of those pies: the Vermont River Conservancy. Its website shows the number of locations it’s already managed to conserve and protect from development — traditional swimming holes and waterfalls, picturesque gorges, small-craft access points and wild riparian habitats all over the state.

At the moment the conservancy is hoping to save a five-acre parcel of overgrown streamside land on the Kingsbury Branch of the Winooski River in East Montpelier. Rising in a complex of ponds and eskers near Woodbury, the tiny Kingsbury Branch meanders languidly through postglacial sandbanks to a confluence with the main river just below the desired property.

Public access there would open to canoeists and kayakers about 30 miles of paddling on both branches. The conservancy would build a launch site and off-the-road parking for boaters, anglers and snowmobilers. (The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains a snowmobile trail crossing the Kingsbury Branch on the property.)

The Vermont River Conservancy, the Friends of the Winooski and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers are anything but wealthy organizations. Staffed largely by volunteers, they rely for their funding upon state and federal agencies and private contributions. The budget for this entire project, including an endowment fund to guarantee future protection and maintenance, is quite modest. But the difference between preserving this 1,900-foot strip of stream bank (you can see it on GoogleEarth) and its fate if it’s developed is immense.

A contribution to the fund to save the mouth of the Kingsbury Branch will make you feel a sense of ownership when you visit. More important, it’ll save a part of the state that otherwise might be lost.

If, however, you have no idea where this project is located, and most likely never will paddle there, don’t forget the mighty Connecticut, New England’s longest river. Its expanding string of lovely campsites is in constant need of support. Stop by one (though, like us, you might want to wait until ice-out), spend the night, and send a contribution to the address in the campsite register.

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