February 2012  
Jan.2011_Top Banner
Vermont State Parks Newsletter
Greetings All!

wavingcraigsnowWelcome to the mid-winter edition of our Vermont State Parks newsletter! It's fun to put this together and to think of you all sitting back with a warm beverage, reading about your favorite parks and the people who work so hard to care for them. You'll enjoy the story about Rick Hedding, one of the park system all-stars, and about Kyle and Sara's wedding! Many of you probably know the newlyweds!

That's the thing about Vermont State Parks; it's a small state with a lot of relatively small parks and a special staff who try hard to make a personal connection with our visitors. Even in the winter, you are never far from our thoughts.
Speaking of winter, people often refer to our state parks as a "summer season only" system. Nothing could be further from the truth!! Sure, people love their parks for summer vacation and day trips, but there is a tremendous amount going on in mid-winter as well! Snowshoeing, skiing, camping, sledding, skating, wildlife viewing, birding...things are really hopping in Vermont State Parks this time of year. Winter outdoors has so much to offer!

So, as soon as you finish reading this newsletter, jump into your cold weather clothing, get out there and have fun!

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks 
Meet Rick Hedding
Regional Ranger Supervisor, Deputy Game Warden, Hunting Educator, and More!

Rick Hedding
Rick's all smiles about his job...jobs.
Rick Hedding has been with Vermont State Parks for over two decades. His experience and efficiency have helped keep the parks he has managed running smoothly, but there is much more to Rick then just managing parks. He was able to sit down and tell us more about how he became a man who wears many hats!

Tell us a little bit about your background
While most of my family is from the Randolph area, my parents moved to Rutland for their careers, so I was 
was born and raised there. I spent a lot of time outdoors, living on the city's edge - where there was easy access to open land. I remember my school guidance counselor saying to me, pick a profession that interests you and one you have a connection with. I like hunting and fishing, so I went to college and studied fish and wildlife.

How did you get involved with the parks?
After graduating college and having a few part time jobs, I was hired by Vermont State Parks as, what is now called, a Regional Coordinator at the Gifford Woods Maintenance Shop in Killington. I thought this would be my foot in the door job to get in as a Game Warden. Unfortunately, for my warden career, I really enjoyed what I was doing and most importantly the people I was working with. I decided I wanted to stay in parks.

rick in uniform
Rick in his game warden uniform
Did you give up your dream of being a Game Warden?

Not quite. A few years into my parks career, I heard that Fish & Wildlife hires Deputy Game Wardens to assist the full time wardens with their district. I applied and was hired. I thought 'this is great; I have my parks family and still get to do some Fish & Wildlife enforcement.' I usually work about 200 hours a year enforcing state laws.

Somewhere along the way, I decided I also wanted to instruct Hunter Education, teaching one or two classes annually. Teaching hunter education is very rewarding, knowing you are expanding someone's knowledge and helping them stay safe in the outdoors. I try to improve my classes every year, but my old standby that I tell all my classes is two words; muzzle control. I also say it takes lots of practice to stay safe in the woods, and it always starts with a good mentor.

You still aren't a Regional Ranger Supervisor yet; what's the rest of the story?
After 14 years as a Regional Coordinator, I was hired as a maintenance technician working primarily in Bomoseen, Branbury, D.A.R., Half Moon, and Lake St. Catherine State Parks. Along with this move, came all my other jobs of being a deputy warden, hunter education instructor, and also a father of two girls. *Note: From multiple sources, it is known that Rick is a wonderful parent and many other parents seek him out for advice. Add counselor and super dad to his job roster!

A little over two years went by and I was promoted again, this time to Regional Ranger Supervisor. After settling in at this job and my girls into an elementary school, I added coaching soccer, basketball, and softball to my job list as well.

Lake Dunmore Branbury
Lake Dunmore in Branbury at sunset
Do you have any favorite memories with your children in the parks?

This past summer my daughter and one of her friends decided they wanted to go camping in a state park.  After some thought, we settled on Branbury. It offered boating, fishing, hiking, and swimming. The two of them used a big tent, while I used a small one. Being 6'3" and well over 200 pounds, sleeping seemed to be the most challenging part of the week. Overall, this trip was one of the best experiences we all had.

Any other memories that have stuck with you?
I think that after 24 years in Vermont State Parks, I have realized that no matter how many promotions a person gets, we all still want to be the ranger. To be on the frontline, you are the one that can directly make a difference in someone's life.

I remember filling in at a park and having a parent come to the contact station with her little boy. She asked me if I had any advice on how to start a fire. The whole reason they had decided to go camping was so that her son could cook hotdogs and marshmallows over a campfire, something he had yet to experience in life. The previous night, she could not get a fire going. I offered to go to her campsite and show her how to build a fire. She was truly grateful to be able to offer this to her son. Those are the moments that make this job worth doing every single day. 

Thank you, Rick, for all your years of service and sharing with us a glimpse of your time with Vermont State Parks!
Easing Into Winter
By Maria Mayer, Parks Regional Manager

Easing slowly into winter is not something we do around here in Vermont. "Long underwear from Labor Day to Memorial Day", one of our rangers used to say. November and December were strangely warm, and the things we saw out in the woods were out of the ordinary to say the least. Our district biologist reported seeing a milk snake out in December! Normally, by December milk snakes should be in some relatively warm rock crevice or narrow cave hibernating. Bears have been restless and roaming instead of settling down for their 'long winter's nap'. My favorite hike passes by an elderberry bush whose buds kept swelling and greening until it was finally crisped by a hard frost not too long ago.

Vermont birding enthusiasts were emailing back and forth excitedly about a Rufous hummingbird that hung out at a feeder in Arlington until January 12th! Similarly, other birds didn't even bother to migrate. John Buck of VT Fish & Wildlife saw a robin at his house last week!

snowy owlWhen there is a lack of snow or a 'January thaw', our poor snowy owls,  visiting from arctic realms, stick out like a sore thumbs. Their white plumage starkly contrasts with the bare hayfields of the Champlain Valley. It may make dinner a bit harder to come by for them but allows us to see this majestic owl more clearly and often in the daylight! It's a great bird for kids to see too because of its large size, due mostly to insulative puffing of feathers. They have been seen at Button Bay State Park recently.  If you go, don't forget to scan the islands offshore too. Check out this link for more on snowy owls.

A winter without much snow can be good and bad for bird species like grouse. A lack of snow means more exposed edibles such as nuts. However, some experts say that a lack of snow can negatively affect grouse. They can't roost in the snow and protect themselves from the elements. In years past with snow, I would go skiing and cause hidden grouse to start, exploding from the snow. My dear friend Burton calls them 'heart attack birds' for this reason. Try looking for them in Groton State Forest.

eagleAlthough we have gotten some colder weather since January 1, we have also had a profound lack of ice on the lakes. This isn't a bad thing for wintering bald eagles who prefer open water. This mild winter gives them more opportunities to hunt and scavenge. You can almost see them on their perch thinking ..."Hmmm. Do I feel like mallard or merganser today? Maybe a Canada goose? No, I'm not that hungry." Multiple eagles have been seen hunting on the shores of Lake Bomoseen.

For quite a few species, it's never too early to think of spring (and love) even in the middle of winter. Great horned owls are calling, defending territory and picking mates. They'll have their eggs laid sometime in the next couple months. Their call is loud, which can make identifying this bird easier for adults and kids! If you plan on taking out some younger folks, watch this short bird story together and get excited for a birding trip.

chickadeeOther species such as chickadees and cardinals are warming up their territorial calls and showy behaviors. If they were to place an ad in the personals, it would read, 'SM BCC (Single Male Black Capped Chickadee) good looking with large territory, looking to settle down and start a family'.

As always, it's the perfect time for a walk in a state park, alone or with family and friends. This winter we've got great birding, some beautiful days with welcoming temperatures, and plenty of signs of the year round residents of the parks if you look and listen carefully.
Events, Events, Events
We're now booking programs and performances for the upcoming 2012 park season, if you are interested contact sarah.hoffmeier@state.vt.us.
ice fishing VVFriday, February 10 - Saturday, February 11
Great Ice in Grand Isle:
5th Annual Celebration
5:00 PM Fri - Saturday evening
North Hero - free parking in the village 

Christmas Tree Bonfire on the ice with bagpipe music; Cookout on the ice with cash bar on the pier at North Hero House; Chili cook-off contest by Islands Chamber, (802) 372-8400 to enter; Official launch of Great Ice Out Device, skating, snowshoeing, dog sled demo, hockey, dancing and more! Check www.champlainislands.com for more details.

Lakewalk_great iceSunday, February 12
Great Ice in Grand Isle:
5th Annual Celebration
All Day
North Hero - free parking in the village
9:00AM - 1:00PM Ice Golf Tournament sponsored by Stewart Construction. Bring clubs for 9 holes of wild golf on the ice. $10 registration fee includes golf balls. Prizes and trophies awarded.
11:00AM - 2:00PM Nordic Skating with Jamie Hess - free www.nordicskating.com (Free demo and use of skates)
2:00PM - 4:00PM Wild skating conditions permitting
4:00PM Iron Will - Disney film, NH Community Hall - By Donation

Saturday, February 18 Great Ice in Grand Isle:
5th Annual Celebration
All Day
North Hero - free parking in the village
10:00AM - 1:00PM Kids' Ice Fishing Derby, kids 14 and under, free. Prizes, trophies, food
1:00PM - 3:00PM F-f-frozen Chozen Regatta - sponsored by Earl's Cyclery and Hero's Welcome - human powered bicycles on the ice - $10 registration fee, Apply at www.heroswelcome.com. Teams welcome.

skiing - great ice eventSunday, February 19 Great Ice in Grand Isle:
5th Annual Celebration
All Day

8:30AM - 10:00AM
Flapjack Breakfast at North Hero House, $7 per person
11:00AM to 4:00PM
Over and Back Trek to Knight Island, sponsored by VT Department of Forests and Parks
5:00PM Family Night Skating Party

Great Lake Champlain Ice Fishing Derby $25 to register. Info (802) 372-5600, (802) 868-4459, (802) 524-2222

Schedule is weather dependent. For updates call the Lake Champlain Islands Chamber of Commerce at 802-372-8400 or Hero's Welcome General Store at 802-372-4161.

For more information visit: www.champlainislands.com, www.heroswelcome.com, or www.northherohouse.com.

We hope you have a toasty fire to sit beside after a day of snowshoeing and exploring. Save a hot cup of cocoa for us!

Vermont State Parks
Contest: New Cabins at Woodford Need New Names!

Four new cabins will be ready for use in Woodford State Park starting next spring, but right now two of them are nameless! So, we're having a cabin naming contest!
woodford cabin
The cabins in Woodford will be named after native Vermont flowers. We just don't know which ones. Tell us which flowers we should choose as their names and why!

What do you get if you win?

The lucky winners will get: two nights in their named cabin for up to 4 people AND a framed write-up and photo that will be put in the cabin all season!

Send your entry to: parks@state.vt.us with "Cabin naming contest" in the subject. Send your email with your name, address, and your names and explanations by March 1, 2012. The winners will be announced mid-March.
Good luck and let the "Names" begin!
A Valentine's Day Story:
Rangers Say "I Do!"

Ranger romance
Sara and Kyle on their wedding day (taken by Dan Lovell)
Vermont State Parks was a matchmaker (kind of) for Sara Hanson and Kyle Mason, two long-time rangers with the parks.

The pair tied the knot this past September 24, 2011 (also National Public Lands Day).

A little about the rangers:
Kyle is a native Vermonter with a Bachelor's degree in Ecological Forest Management from Paul Smiths College. Kyle started working for the parks 11 years ago as a VYCC corps member.  In 2006, he started his tenure as a ranger. Kyle has worked at Branbury, Lake Carmi, Elmore, Emerald Lake, and D.A.R. State Parks. Last year, Kyle switched gears and took a job as a Forestry Technician with the Department of Forests and also was a substitute ranger.
Sara, now, Sara Hanson Mason is also a native Vermonter. She has a Bachelor's degree in Early Elementary Education from the University of Maine - Farmington. Sara started working for parks in 2005 as a VYCC corps member at Branbury State Park. She was promoted to Assistant the following year. Sara has also worked at Emerald Lake, and D.A.R. State Parks. Sara currently works with the Head Start Program but continued to work part time at Branbury
this past summer.

About the couple:

POY Sara and Kyle
Park of the Year Staff D.A.R.
Sara and Kyle met at Branbury in 2005 and began dating the following year. From 2007-2010 They ran parks as a team including, Emerald Lake in 2007 and D.A.R. for 3 years. What a team they were! The parks they managed were always in top-notch shape. Kyle and Sara would often go above and beyond by organizing great programs and fun activities such as parades for their visitors. They won Park of the Year while at D.A.R. in 2008.

We wish Kyle and Sara all the best in their marriage!
If you are interested in having your wedding in a state park, visit our wedding webpage.

Also, if you would like to know more about having a wedding specifically at Kingsland Bay, call our Reservation Center, 888-409-7579, to order a free wedding packet with all the information you'll need!
Successful First Day Hikes!
1st day hikes _ KB nature trail
A 1st Day Hike group on Kingsland Bay's Nature Trail
To start off 2012, Vermont State Parks offered up nine free, guided First Day Hikes in eight different state parks: Gifford Woods, Little River, Molly Stark, Underhill, Kingsland Bay, Woodford, Ricker Pond, and Groton State Forest.

Vermont Outdoor Guide Association (VOGA) members stepped forward and volunteered to guide many of these hikes. Thank you to VOGA and our other hiking guides!

Not only were participants getting a healthy start to their New Year, but they had a blast meeting new folks and being outside.

Keep an eye out for more First Day Hikes in coming years. 
We've Moved!
Finally, after months of uncertainty about where we'd go after being dislocated due to Irene, the central office for Vermont State Parks has a more permanent (albeit still temporary) office in Montpelier. We are now located at:

81 River Street
Heritage Building I

Montpelier, VT 05602

We're around the back of the building. Look for the Vermont State Parks sign on the entrance doors.

Mail sent to the old Waterbury address will still get to us as will all the old listed phone numbers.

Thank you for your support and patience during our transition this past fall.
Follow-up Links
Winter Fun Ideas

Regional Manager and mother of two, Maria Mayer, shared a favorite link of hers from the National Wildlife Federation. Click here to see some great winter outdoor ideas for kids.

Thanks for sharing Maria!

If you have any suggestions, feedback, or questions for the newsletter, please send them to parks@state.vt.us.
winter 2012 bottom banner