May 2012
Camping at Half Moon 
Vermont State Parks Newsletter 
Greetings Everyone!


Well friends, Spring has certainly sprung here in Vermont! The good folks at Vermont State Parks who work year-round have literally been working all winter to get ready for our big summer operating season and it's finally here. This is the exciting time of the year when we are busy putting the final touches on our preparations for your visits! So, think spring everyone! Dig out that camping equipment, dust off your favorite hiking shoes, clean up those kayaks, and round up the beach and picnic stuff. Your parks will be ready when you are!


Craig Whipple

Director, Vermont State Parks 
Outdoor Observer: A Murder of Crows
Rebecca Phelps, Education Coordinator

crow at knight point

A crow enjoys a walk

at Knight Point State Park

I saw a red fox in an unexpected place recently-the parking lot at Sand Bar State Park in the middle of the day! I was enjoying a run along Route 2, looking out at Lake Champlain, admiring the view and noticing the signs of spring, when I turned into the parking lot at Sand Bar. Suddenly, a red fox ran directly in front of me and across the parking lot. What on earth would motivate a fox to be running in a parking lot in the middle of the day? In this case, it was a large murder of crows.

A murder of crows is really a fancy name for a group of crows. People used to be very creative and poetic when creating names for groups of animals. Some other great ones include a scurry of squirrels, a bloat of hippopotamuses, a romp of otters and a skulk of foxes. 

murder of crows
A murder of crows
Why would a group of crows be chasing a fox? Crows are very social birds. During the winter months, they form huge flocks at night. This winter I saw a huge flock of over 1,000 individual birds flying over Interstate 89 in Randolph, Vermont. It was amazing to see that many crows soar across the winter twilight sky, all heading in the same direction. Imagine what that many crows must look like all roosting in trees in a big group!

These huge flocks offer crows protection from predators. It is true that there is safety in numbers, and flocking together protects crows from great-horned owls, raccoons, and you guessed it: red foxes. Crows can chase away predators much larger than themselves by working as a group-this group chase of a predator is called mobbing. If you had a murder of crows dive bombing you, you would agree that mobbing is indeed a perfect name for this behavior.

A crow with something to say
As winter gives way to spring, these large groups break up and crows return to their territories, build nests and begin mating. When this happens, smaller family groups form. Family groups are composed of the parent crows and last year's offspring. Sometimes the group is larger and includes offspring from previous years. Sometimes as many as five years of offspring stay in the family group to help rear the new brood. Researchers figured that these large family groups were formed because of lack of available territory for the young crows to move into.
The well known West Nile virus hit crows particularly hard with over 45% mortality in crows in the US since 1999. As you can imagine, these losses impacted the family groups. Crow researchers observed large groups of crows continuing to communally raise young. This was surprising, because they expected that new territory would open up, and the young crows would take advantage of that by raising their own young. So, they tested the crows and discovered that the survivors formed "family" groups when they were not even related to each other. That means that young crows helped other crows raise their young even though there was no genetic link between them. This is unusual in the animal kingdom.
A curious crow
Clearly, you can state that crows are social creatures. As we look forward to our favorite songbirds returning to their summer habitat here in Vermont, do not overlook watching one of the largest songbirds in our area, the American Crow. And, keep your eye out for the predators they are mobbing. 

You can watch crows at state parks across Vermont from Fort Dummer to Crystal Lake and everywhere in between.
Meet Park Ranger:
Ashley Brisson

ashley brisson
Ashley Brisson
Ashley grew up in Isle LaMotte, Vermont, the smallest island town in northern Lake Champlain about 35 miles north of Burlington. Ashley was fortunate to have parents that encouraged exploration of the outdoors. She spent many long hours scouring for fossils along her grandparents' beach, creating forest villages with her two younger brothers and cousins, and venturing out through the woods via snowshoe past abandoned apple orchards onto the lake.

Ashley has many hobbies and passions including camping, cooking, gardening, kayaking, painting, and photography. Ashley is trying to see all of the Vermont State Parks and she only has eleven left to go out of the 52 parks! Ashley was able to give us some of her time to tell us more about herself and her time with the parks:

Ashley Brisson with Smokey
Ashley and Smokey the Bear
How did you get your start with Vermont State Parks?

My mother got me started in Vermont State Parks. She monitored the wastewater operations at North Hero and Lake Carmi State Parks when I was a child. My brothers and I spent a lot of time discovering those parks! We also went camping every summer at Lake Carmi State Park.  When I was 16 my mom found out there was an attendant opening at North Hero State Park and she told me to apply.  Luckily, I was offered the position.  That was the beginning of my journey with Vermont State Parks!  Since that fateful summer, I have worked one summer at Kill Kare State Park (2001) as an attendant, and one season at Burton Island State Park(2002). While attending college at the University of Vermont for Environmental Studies, I became the Park Ranger for Kill Kare (2003-2008).  Also my husband Jason and I had our wedding at Kill Kare State Park in 2007.  In 2009 I switched parks and became an Assistant Ranger at Grand Isle State Park. That is a total of 12 seasons, and still counting!  I really love communing with park visitors and making sure their adventures in Vermont are as memorable as mine! I also love leaving a lasting impression on my staff about what it means to work for Vermont State Parks!

ashley brisson and hubby
Ashley, Jason, and Jaeger
in Groton
What is your favorite state park?

My favorite Vermont State Park is Half Moon Pond State Park. I have many other favorites for numerous other reasons, but overall I thought Half Moon was amazing! My husband, Jason (who also worked for the parks) and I brought our dog Jaeger camping there in 2010. We loved how the sites were located around the pond, and the way campfire smoke slowly moved above the water like fog. The hiking trail to Bomoseen State Park was also exciting and unique! We had to watch our steps along the trail because there were so many salamanders! I just kept thinking how environmentally clean this place is! A real gem!

Would you change anything about your job or the parks?

There is not much I would change in my job. I only wish there was a way to be a Park Ranger year-round, as I enjoy being a steward for Vermont and the environment all the time! If I could change anything about the parks, I would add more interpretive programming for children and adults. Other than personal memories, programming helps keep people interested in the outdoors.

Kill Kare House
Rocky Point Hotel at Kill Kare State Park
What is your favorite memory you have had in the parks?

My favorite memory while working in Vermont State Parks has to be seeing the Kill Kare State Park bathhouse (also known as The Rocky Point Hotel) being renovated! Having lived in that building for six summers I know how dear the building is to so many people, including myself. It makes me really proud of Vermont State Parks to see the work get done. Now, the beautifully finished building will continue to inspire and offer shelter to park visitors for generations more!

Another great memory is from the 2011 season at Grand Isle. I was having a campfire night for my birthday in September; all campers were welcome to attend. The evening started out with one gentleman who brought a guitar. We all laughed and giggled trying to come up with songs that everyone knew! The best part was a little girl who was so enamored at being at the Park Ranger's birthday party she talked incessantly all night long (well...until quiet hours), it was fantastic! The staff laughed for days!

Thanks Ashley! We'll see you at Grand Isle this season!
Venture Vermont 2012:
Are you ready for the Challenge?

Navigate a trail at night, go for a bird walk at dawn, build a fire without matches. Are you up for challenges like these? If so, the 2012 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challengeis for you! Venture Vermont is fun and easy to do. You'll never run out of ideas for fun activities, while learning, exploring and expanding your horizons.  

To participate, just download a scoresheet. Choose the activities that interest you, and take photos (or have someone else take photos) of you doing each activity. When you reach 250 points, send in your score sheet and photos.
VV coin
In return, you'll receive a VIP Gold Coin that will give  you FREE day entry into any Vermont State Park for the rest of this year, and all of 2013!

Families really love the challenge and you'll have those photos to remember all your accomplishments. If you do the challenge as a family, you can take group photos, but you'll need to fill out a score sheet for each family member.

To see what fun last year's participants had, view this video of some of our favorite photos from 2011.
On the Calendar

reservingTwo Night Reservations are now available
Call 888-409-7579 for more information


Saturday, May 26th
Chainsaw Carving Demonstration
with Mark LeClair
2:00 PM at Lake Carmi State Park

Mark is back again this year to show off his artistic skills with a chainsaw. Last year he carved bears, but who knows what he'll pick to create this season. Come watch to find out!
park officeThe parks are opening!
4/27 Jamaica opens, 4/30 Wilgus, 5/18 Lake Carmi, Stillwater, DAR, Grand Isle, Little River, Gifford Woods, Smugglers' Notch and Quechee ...and more to come!

bomoseen swimSaturday - Sunday, June 9th-10th
Vermont Days
All State Parks and Historic Sites
Free Entry and Lots of Fun Activities
bofwFriday - Sunday, June 1- 3
Becoming and Outdoor Family Weekend
Groton State Forest Parks
Take outdoor skill workshops from professional instructors. Learn GPS, photoraphy, kayaking, outdoor cooking, fishing, birding, mountain biking and more. Over 50 workshops to choose from. $175/a family, up to 8 members. Learn more or sign up!
branbury Saturday June 2, 10:00 am - 2:00 PM
 National Trails Day at Branbury State Park
 The nation's biggest TRAILgating party!  Guided hikes, mountain bike rides, nature  programs & more!
We're excited to see some green in the parks, get out, and explore. Have fun!
Vermont State Parks
Woodford Cabin (contest name)
Congratulations to Our Cabin Naming Winners!

This year, two new cabins were built at Woodford State Park and we needed a little help naming them, so, we created a contest. The park already had two cabins named after Vermont wildflowers, so we asked contestants to tell us which other Vermont native wildflowers we should name the cabins after, and their reasons for choosing that flower. Over 400 entries were received, all with great names and some with great stories, but two stood out as the winning entries.

The lucky winners will receive a free weekend stay in "their cabin" and we'll put a poster in each cabin, explaining how they got their name. There are lots of cabins in the parks, so maybe you'll get a chance to stay in one of these cabins this summer!  And the winners are...


Lady's Slipper
By: Jennie Kolenda
Her winning story:
As youngsters, we were always roaming through the woods (never called the forest). We delighted in hearing the songs of the birds and the stirrings of the leaves, surprising a rodent. When we were thirsty, we cupped our hands and drank the water from a sparkling stream. Today, that would be a no-no. In the spring, we checked out the many beautiful wild flowers, knowing them by name. In particular, we searched for the elusive, rare, "Lady Slipper." Were we excited when we found one. To us, it was like finding Gold. We did not disturb its habitat, leaving it to reproduce the following year. When we arrived home, we had exciting news to tell our family.

Jack in the Pulpit
By: Autumn Buccheiri

Her winning story:
I have an answer that is dear to my heart. When I was about ten, we moved along the Battenkill River in Arlington, VT. My mom was a hippie of sorts and I remember fondly her taking us kids for walks, showing us the species of plants and mushrooms that grew in the wild along the riverbanks. One of these days stood out in my mind ever since. We were walking and exploring when I heard an exclamation and excitement come over my mom. She knelt to the ground and tenderly swept away dead foliage and showed us her "wonder". It was a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. She explained to us kids how rare and beautiful this flower was. She told us we should never pick it because it was endangered and very special. As a kid, it was the first time I ever knew that other things besides animals could be endangered. It was eye-opening and moving and I will never forget that curious odd looking Jack-in-the-Pulpit. That day created for me a lifelong appreciation of the small wonders of nature and the ability to never take these things for granted.

Thanks to all who entered!
There are plenty of cabins to enjoy in Vermont State Parks, check them out!
New Vermont State Parks iPhone App!

Now, it's easier than ever to explore Vermont's 52 State Parks and all they have to offer. This FREE App is available for iPad, iPhone, and iPhone Touch.
Oh Ranger App
With it you can:
  • Search for parks near you and view google map with pins
  • Search for parks based on a wide range of activities such as: hiking, camping, bird watching, history/culture, auto touring, bicycling, climbing, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, water sports, RVing, wildviewing
  • Check out the park's website and see: photos of the park, directions, a button to call the park or the Call Center, park events, park maps
  • View trail details
  • Find other cool things to do near the park
  • And More!

 iPhone Park Website

Download this app now.

We want to thank the great folks at OhRanger! for making this app possible for us. Check out their popular app for US Parks at this link.
Healthier Air for You and the Parks: 
 New Smoking Policy

Vermont State Park visitors never seem to hesitate to tell us what's on their minds. We usually have a pretty good idea what we do well and where we need improvement...based entirely on comments from our visitors!

One of the things we have heard a lot about recently is tobacco smoke. The fun for non-smokers and their families at busy areas can really be affected by tobacco smokers close by. We have done some research and learned about the harmful effects of second hand smoke even in outdoor settings and decided to propose a rule that allows us to designate smoke free areas in parks.

If the rule gets approved, we will designate playgrounds and the busiest parts of many day use areas as "Smoke Free". Your input on this is welcome as we progress through the process of getting the rule reviewed and approved. You can read more about the public comment and rule change process at this link. You can email feedback to

We welcome your feedback!

Seyon Lodge Spring Lodging Special
Visitors who have been to Seyon Lodge State Park are always telling us what a hidden gem it is. The serenity of the pond, the classic lodge feel, the great local food, and most of all the hospitality of innkeeper Jessie Mae!

This spring we're making it easier than ever for you to experience it for yourself.
From now through June 15th you can enjoy a stay Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or Thursday nights for $75/per person/per night, double or single occupancy. Breakfast and dinner are included. 
seyon bedroom
Seyon Lodge is famous for its trout fishing, in fact, its the only fly-fishing only public trout pond in the whole state!

You can also enjoy taking a rowboat out on the pond or exploring the miles of trails, lakes, ponds and mountains within the 23,000 acre Groton State Forest.
For more information call
802--583-3829 and be sure to mention the special to receive the discount.
seyon lodge
Paul AndersonWe want to give a big shout out of thanks to Paul Anderson, one of our talented Photography Interns for taking the awesome photo of Noyes Pond at Seyon Lodge State Park as well as the beautiful ferns at Mt. Ascutney State Park.
Paul bought his first SLR camera in 1972 and hasn't looked back since. He enjoys photographing waterfalls and flowing brooks.  His photos have won many ribbons and contests.

Thanks Paul, for your great contribution!
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