March 2011 

Greetings Everyone!



Ahhhh. As much as we love Vermont winters, it sure is nice when the air warms, the snow starts to melt, and signs of spring show up everywhere!

Spring for us here at Vermont State Parks also means our phones in the reservation call center ring more often, our recently upgraded website gets more hits, our managers get busy recruiting and hiring our outstanding staff, and everybody is busily looking forward to those park gates opening back up!


There is a lot to do, but it's good work with a wonderful purpose - making sure all our parks are ready so our visitors have a chance to get outside and experience all that Vermont outdoors have to offer! You'd better start digging out all that summer recreation equipment because it's just around the corner!

See you soon!

Craig Whipple, Director, Vermont State Parks

Outdoor Observer: Mud Season Surprises

By Rebecca Phelps, Conservation Education Coordinator

We are slowly
watching the world melt. Thick piles of familiar snow are making way for muddy earth.


mud season

The roads best illustrate the start of mud season

In Vermont, we eagerly watch the change of seasons after a long winter. Every little thing is registered by our hopeful eyes. Mud season looks like a miracle when you spend months wandering around in a world of white.


Don't get me wrong, we love winter in Vermont, but it is difficult to not get excited about seasonal changes, no matter the season. One early sign we can see are clusters of snow fleas, a type of springtail.  Snow fleas are small insects that normally live in the soil around trees, and on warm winter days, they become active and congregate on the snow.

snow flea

A snow flea up close

Although these insects are called snow fleas, they are not related to fleas. They look sort of similar to fleas and they hop, although they feed on decomposing matter on the forest floor. Those warm early spring days are the perfect time to spot them, as they gather and form patches of blue or red on the surface of snow.

Another early sign of spring in Vermont is sugar on snow' parties.  As the days warm and nights stay cold in early spring, the sap starts running in sugar maple trees. In Vermont, maple syrup production is a big industry and a time honored tradition.

Many people tap their sugar maple trees and boil the sap until it is a thick syrup. Scales of production can range from a few trees in the yard to a large sugar bush with thousands of taps. One way we gather to celebrate the coming spring is to join together to eat pickles, donuts, and have sugar on snow! To make sugar on snow, get a bowl of fresh, clean snow (careful to avoid snow fleas when gathering!) and your freshly made syrup. Heat the syrup to 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature of soft ball stage in candy making). Then, pour the warm sweet syrup on top of the snow. The syrup will cool into the most delicious snack with a consistency of taffy. Who could ask for a better spring treat!

Sugar on snow

Sugar on snow - a traditional Vermont spring treat 

Very soon, we will be enjoying the first of the spring flowers followed by grasses and buds emerging from our muddy world. Get out there and see what early signs of spring you can spot for yourself. Great places to go for early spring walks are Townshend, Jamaica, Emerald Lake, Button Bay, Knight Point, and Elmore State Parks. Stop by a sugarhouse on your way home, and enjoy some sugar on snow before the snow is gone for good!

New Universally Accessible Trail at Waterbury Center
Trailhead Waterbury Center

The trailhead of the newly completed ADA compliant trail

A new trail at Waterbury Center State Park

is now ready for walkers, runners, strollers, wheelchairs, and more. Last fall, the nature trail in the park had a make-over. This popular trail used to be narrow, too close to the reservoir (it would flood a few times a year!), and showed signs of wear due to high traffic. 

After the park closed for the season in September, construction immediately began for its improvement. A local company, Timber & Stone, LLC, was brought in to design and build a new universally accessible trail. The trail builders created a five-foot-wide, 1,530 foot long, naturally surfaced trail that includes a new bridge, open vistas of the reservoir and surrounding mountains, and an open area on the small peninsula at the trails' end.


WC penisula before

Before construction

peninsula after construction WC

After construction

These photos show the overgrown peninsula area before construction (left) and newly finished accessible area (right) where people are able to enjoy stunning views of the reservoir.


Surfacing WC trail

Josh and Alex add surfacing to the trail

Timber & Stone, LLC, a trail planning, design, and construction business based in Woodbury, VT, has years of construction and trail design experience with many land management agencies throughout Vermont, but was particularly eager to work with Vermont State Parks. The owner,  Josh Ryan, and his partner, Alex Hoffmeier, quickly converted the narrow and puddled trail into a clearly defined, well drained path that is wheelchair and stroller friendly. Timber and Stone, LLC also rerouted the trail to better preserve the surrounding natural areas.

Before the revamped trail, visitors had to avoid stepping in soggy areas. Now, people can take in their surroundings as they stroll through the orchard, along the water, and among the wildlife living in Waterbury Center State Park.


Avoiding soggy areas required balance before the trail improvements

During the off-season (until Memorial Day weekend), visitors do not have to pay a day use fee, but will need to park outside of the gate in the pull off area.  Facilities and rangers are not available until the start of the season.


Come try out the path for yourself and take in all your surroundings while strolling the new trail at Waterbury Center State Park.

Park Opening Dates

A welcome sight!

The gates to the parks open!

We can't wait to open the gates in all the parks. Generally, parks open Memorial Day weekend, but a few open early! Check out the list below to start planning your first visit of the seaon. 


Opening Dates:

May 2- Wilgus State Park
May 20 - Lake Carmi State Park

              Stillwater State Park

              Grand Isle State Park

              Little River State Park

              Gifford Woods State Park

              Mt. Ascutney State Park

              Smugglers Notch State Park

May 27

(Memorial Day Weekend) - ALL PARKS!

Maple Sugaring in Vermont State Parks


sugar tap
Running sap from a sugar maple

Maple sugaring is an important and highly visible part of Vermont's working landscape, rural economy, and unique cultural heritage. The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) has worked closely with the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association and individual sugarmakers to guarantee that sugaring on state lands is compatible with other state land management objectives, minimizes conflicts with recreational users, takes into account aesthetic considerations, and is conducted in accord with the highest applicable standards. All sugaring on FPR lands is conducted in accordance with conservative tapping guidelines that ensure protection of the forest and associated natural resources.


Nate's Kids Sugaring
Nate McKeen's (Chief of Park Operations) kids love to gather sap buckets

In response to Act #21 of the 2009 Legislative Session (An Act Relating to Licensing State Forest Land for Maple Sugar Production), FPR issued several new sugaring licenses to sugarmakers which allows them to tap trees at designated sites on FPR lands.


One such site is in Groton State Forest along the entrance road to

Seyon Lodge State Park. FPR is proposing to license another sugarbush site on the backside of Elmore State Park for the 2012 sugaring season.


Most of FPR's sites selected for maple sugaring were either historically used by sugarmakers and/or are located adjacent to private land that is actively being sugared.


This year, the Department has seven active sugaring licenses with more than 16,000 taps. It is anticipated that these sugaring licenses will generate roughly $10,000 this year in revenue, all of which goes to Vermont State Parks.

Information provided by Michael Fraysier, ANR Lands Director

Time to pull out those T-shirts. Warmer temperatures are heading our way. Be sure to stop and smell those early spring flowers coming up soon!

Vermont State Parks
Allis view from leanto

The view from one of Allis's prime leantos

Allis is Open for Camping and Day Use is FREE!

Vermont State Parks is pleased to announce several operational changes at Allis State Park in Brookfield. This park is a favorite for those seeking a quiet experience, great hiking and views, or the perfect spot to share a picnic with loved ones.


Two of the biggest changes are that camping is back and day use of the park is now FREE!


Camping will return at the park for 2011 after a two-year hiatus. Sixteen tent/trailer or lean-to sites will be available by advance reservation or on a space-available basis. Some campsites have been removed to provide better spacing between sites allowing for more privacy. 

Allis Shelter

The shelter at the top of the park

Other changes:

The campground's restroom has running water; however, showers are not available. 

A sanitary pump-out station for travel trailers and RVs is available. 

Allis has a beautiful log picnic shelter with a capacity of 100 people - perfect for hosting events or get-togethers. The shelter may be reserved free of charge Monday - Thursday and for $100 Friday - Sunday.

The awesome firetower has interpretive panels depicting the views -newly installed for 2011.


The firetower - offering the best views around

The hiking, fresh air, peaceful atmosphere, and picturesque setting haven't changed, so be sure to stop by and visit! 


Please let us know what you like at the Allis campground, and what you think we should do differently - we want to hear from you!



Two Night Reservations Now Available!


Friendly and informative staff are ready to help make your reservation

March 1st has come and gone, which means two night reservations are possible in all parks.

When the Reservation Call Center starts taking two-night reservations, it truly gets everyone in Vermont State Parks excited for the season. Spring is almost here!

Visit our website to book your camping vacation or call 888-409-7579 to reserve your spot in your favorite campground. Hurry, they go fast!

Challengers Get Ready!

Venture Vermont

Starts April 1st



Arriving at the summit of Camels Hump (10 pts)

With over 350 entries last year, we've spiffed up the scorecard with new challenges and activites. This year's challenge will prove to be the most fun yet.


Download a scorecard from the Vermont State Parks website and remember the three big rules:   

1. Fill out one scorecard per person

2. Take photos of all your activities

3. Have a blast!


VV_Binoculars Bird Walk

Homemade binoculars from recycled materials (5 pts)

Two great success stories were submitted last year with Venture Vermont entries. Below, is the story. 

Jan and Jenn had never visited their local state park (Silver Lake), they had never tried camping, and had not participated in Venture Vermont until last year. Both ladies went from novice to regular campers during their multiple visits to Silver Lake State Park.



Hiking over boulders keeps leg muscles in shape!

Even more impressive, Jan lost 22 lbs and Jenn lost 23 lbs by getting out in the parks and completing fun challenges with their families and friends for Venture Vermont. Two of the challenges which helped them lose weight were the "screen-time diet" (no tv) for a month and the "waste free lunch" (no fast food or take-out containers) for a month. They both gave up Netflix and instead went for walks!

Jenn ended her scorecard submission by saying, "We had a blast completing the challenge. We really liked the variety of topics and can't wait for next year's challenge!!"  



Using a compass and map to navigate a state forest (30 pts)

Congratulations Jan and Jenn for being healthy and completing the challenge!

Excited to start Venture Vermont 2011? You can begin completing challenges starting April 1, 2011. Check the park website for an updated scorecard.

What a great way to stay healthy and keep trim while having fun! 


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