February 2014 
Vermont State Parks
Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks

Hello Everyone!


Winter here in Vermont has finally really set in with tons of wonderful snow! People are having all sorts of fun and adventure playing in state parks snowshoeing, sledding, skiing and even camping. The old myth that our parks are "closed" in the winter has slowly but surely died away. It's a great time to get outdoors to experience Vermont winter at its finest. It just takes a little more preparation and planning to stay comfortable and safe, but with today's equipment and gear it's pretty easy. So get out there and have fun!


Speaking of fun, recently Park Ranger Agnes Barsalow, Maintenance Supervisor John Medose and I took a quick February swim in beautiful Lake Elmore! Elmore State Park played host to the annual "Polar Splash," a charity event sponsored by the local Rotary Club. Over 150 people showed up to watch a bunch of enthusiastic people jump into a hole in the two-foot thick ice! Our Vermont State Parks Team raised money and braved the icy waters for a frigid but "refreshing" little dip. It's a good example of how our parks are used for valuable community events...even in the winter! It helps highlight the fact that state parks are truly community assets and we who work in the park system are committed to contributing to our Vermont communities in any way we can!

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks
The Outdoor Observer: Owl Irruption 
By: Rebecca Phelps, Conservation Education Coordinator 
Photo by Rollin Tebbets

There is nothing more beautiful than winter mornings in Vermont.  This morning as I walked along the West River in Jamaica State Park, fog lifted off the open water in the center of the icy river, and rocks were pillows of pure white snow. After a thick snowfall yesterday, the world was white and sparkling in the early morning sunlight. The sky was beginning to turn the deep, dark blue of winter as the sun rose over the hills. 


On a beautiful day like this you know you need to get outside into the crisp, clean air. There is no better time to dust off your snowshoes, turn off your cell phone, pack some snacks and hit the trail. There is so much to see when the world is covered in snow, the sun is sparkling and the air is cold. 


One special treat you can enjoy this winter is spotting some rare arctic owls. The winter of 2014 has brought a shortage of small rodents in the northern arctic, which is pushing hungry owls south.  This southern movement of owls from their normal range is called an irruption. Luckily for Vermonters and these owls, Vermont is an apparent buffet of rodents. In exchange for snacks of mice and voles, we get to spot these rare birds without having to venture far from home.


Large white Snowy Owls have been routinely spotted by people all over Vermont this winter. These birds are easier to spot than many of our native owls because they are active during the day and they prefer open pasture land. They seek out the highest point in open fields; look for them sitting on fence posts or sitting on rocks or on the highest point in open areas. These are North America's largest owls (by weight). They have distinctive white plumage with some dark brown barring, and bright yellow eyes.  Keep an eye out for them on your next trip to Lake Carmi, DAR, Button Bay and Kingsland Bay State Parks. 


Another rare owl visitor to Vermont this winter is the Northern Hawk Owl. One has been loitering famously in the Waterbury Center area, drawing in people from far away. Crowds of people gather with high powered binoculars and wide angle lenses to catch this owl in action as it hunts rodents in Waterbury Center fields. In a much more quiet way, I have spotted one several times near my home in the White River Valley.  The first time I saw the owl, I was with my little two-year-old daughter, who loves owls. The Northern Hawk Owl looks exactly like a hawk, and when I saw it I thought to myself, "Why is that hawk behaving like an owl?" It flew low out of some thick hemlocks, soared low above the dirt road we were traveling on and then gracefully swooped up to perch at the top of a hemlock tree along the river.  I have seen Barred Owls in the exact same place before. I stopped the car, looked in the back seat and said to my daughter, "Do you see that hawk?" She said, "Owl!" And you know what, later I discovered she was right! 


My neighbor had been seeing the same bird, she got a decent photo of it and the folks at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science confirmed it is a Northern Hawk Owl.  We have seen it half a dozen times since then along the White and Tweed Rivers in the early evening.


It feels pretty magical to spot a rare bird, particularly an owl. Even if you do not have the opportunity to see these owls, you should still get out into the winter world. No matter where you go I promise you will see something magical, too.  

Ice Fishing in Vermont
By: Jenny Montagne, Program Services Clerk  
Pete out on the ice

Growing up in Vermont, I took part in lots of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, sledding, and snow-fort building, but ice fishing was one winter activity that I never tried.  I didn't get curious about the sport until college, when a group of my friends were heading out for a day of fishing on Lake St. Catherine. I bundled up and met them out on the ice. I had underestimated the weather, and most of what I remember is being very cold sitting in the shanty as the wind blew over the frozen lake. As this extraordinarily cold winter bore down, I wanted to learn more about the sport, why it's fun, and how to stay warm on the ice.


I asked my friend, Pete, a Vermont ice fishing enthusiast about his favorite spots to go. "Glen Lake (in Bomoseen State Park) is a personal favorite, for its tranquil beauty and also because it holds very large Northen Pike. It can be very, very slow fishing, but the rewards can be very worthwhile." He recommends Lake Bomoseen because "trophy catches of many species can be caught there, from Bass, to Perch, to Trout, to Pike," as well as Lake St. Catherine because of the diversity of fish found in the lake.


Pete uses tip-ups, devices that send up a flag when the fish has taken the bait, and prefers to keep warm in a shanty. He gets a great deal of enjoyment out of fishing, but especially likes: "the solitude, sunrises, sunsets, the excitement of seeing a flag go up, seeing wildlife, socializing with fellow anglers (when the solitude gets boring), cooking on the ice (with [his] small propane grill), and the prospect of catching something huge."

Mike Fraysier, Director of State Lands Administration for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, really got hooked on ice fishing while living out west. Since returning to the east, he has spent a lot of time fishing on Lake Champlain and the popular ice fishing spot, Berlin Pond. Mike uses a jig stick, a type of lure with a weighted hook, and doesn't use a shanty. When asked how he stays warm out in the open, Mike says "When I get uncomfortable, I start drilling another hole." Mike enjoys the social aspect of the sport, going out with friends or his son, and points out that "it's better than sitting on the couch."


Ice fishing is important to Vermonters, and this year it became accessible than ever. The first ever Free Ice Fishing Day, hosted by Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Vermont Sportsman, was held on January 25, 2014 at Larabee Point Fishing Access Area in Shoreham, VT. The event will now be held every year on the fourth Saturday in January.


For information about ice fishing in Vermont, visit the Department of Fish & Wildlife website: http://bit.ly/1gZW22A


Pete suggests using this depth chart from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Watershed Management Division as a tool to plan your next trip:  http://www.vtwaterquality.org/lakes/htm/lp_depthcharts.htm

2014 season passes available! 


Get ready for the summer with Vermont State Parks season passes. Individual or vehicle season passes are the easy and affordable way to visit the parks this summer! 


Visit our website for more information: 


Calling all performers!
We are seeking park performers for our 2014 season! 
If you are a musician, storyteller, birder, crafter, or have another talent that you would like to share with us, let us know! 



Ashley Clark, a native Vermonter, graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Currently, she serves as co-chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Child Care Resource Executive Board. In her spare time, Ashley likes to spend time outdoors with her family and two dogs, Finnley & Joy. Thank you, Ashley, for the river hike photo at Little River State Park! To see more of Ashley's photos, visit: http://bit.ly/1gAgeZn  


Lené Gary is a writer, poet, and recreational photographer living in Southern Vermont. Her writing has won national literary awards and appears in both print and online journals. Her photographs have been published in One New England, Vermont Nature, and The Bridge. When she's not writing, she can be found paddling her well-worn Mad River canoe. Thanks for the beautiful ice photo, Lené! To see more of Lené's photos, visit: http://bit.ly/1oMSNj8

This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks
May your boots be warm, the snow fluffy, and your days longer! 
Vermont State Parks

Recreation Update

By: Jessica Savage, Recreation Coordinator

In September of 2013, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) began a new initiative to focus on dispersed recreation. You might ask yourself, "What exactly is dispersed recreation?" Well, it's the kind of outdoor recreation many of us enjoy here in the Green Mountain State: hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more. Typically, it's the kind of recreation you engage in via a trail, and outside of a developed park area.

With the hiring of a Statewide Recreation Coordinator, FPR has taken a huge step towards fulfilling a vision for greater dispersed recreation access on state lands as well as stronger partnerships. 


One of the first steps in the process was a Recreation Summit for FPR staff who manage recreation. This day-long, facilitated event brought over 30 dedicated Parks and Forestry professionals together to craft a Vision Statement and Action Plan. Their enthusiasm generated over 50 goals and actions in topic areas such as Recreation Best Management, Public Information, Partnerships and more.


As FPR continues this initiative, work groups will emerge and tackle these themes. We welcome your input and participation as we all work together to make the "R" in FPR even better!

Legacy of African American CCC Members

The Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) played an integral role in the creation and improvement of the country's lands and public spaces. The Emergency Conservation Work Act, which established the CCC, went into effect in March of 1933. The anti-poverty program employed men, ages 17 to 23, to work on conservation projects in exchange for money, board, and lodging. Members earned about $30 a month and were required to send all but $5 home to their families, many of whom were feeling the effects of the depression.  All told, the CCC enrolled more than 3,000,000 individuals, including 250,000 African American members.
CCC Company 2314-C, 1933

 Though the Emergency Conservation Work Act included language forbidding racial discrimination in the program, by 1935 CCC Director Robert Fechner had ordered the segregation of all CCC camps. There were few African American recruitment efforts and favoritism was shown to white applicants. African American enrollees often encountered hostility from their supervisors as well as the communities they served.  

On July 2, 1933, Company 1351, an African American outfit, the first of the CCC veterans division, arrived in Barre, Vermont from Langley Field, Virginia. They were soon joined by companies 1105 and 1107 from Massachusetts and 349, an African American unit from Maryland. Members were dispatched to Vermont to work on the Winooski River Flood Control Project which included the construction of the East Barre Dam, the Wrightsville Dam, and eventually the Waterbury Dam.  These large-scale projects were prompted by the 1927 flood which wreaked havoc on the Vermont landscape. The dams, the last of which was completed in 1938, are still in place today, and speak to the valuable legacy of the CCC in Vermont.

A CCC camp in East Barre, 1933

There were two African American companies at the Waterbury and East Barre camps. In Waterbury, it's reported that the African American quarters were set apart from the rest of the barracks. According to Thomas Patton's When the Veterans Came to Vermont, a CCC member serving in Vermont wrote to the newspaper the Afro-American stating, "We find Vermont to be a beautiful state. Most of the residents are old settlers of New England. Hardly knowing what Jim Crows is, and caring less, we have eight companies of white vets here and two colored companies."


All told, about 15,000 CCC members worked on the Winooski Flood Control Project. Additionally, Vermont's CCC crews worked on forestry projects, built picnic and camping areas, constructed fire towers, and created ski trails - work that helped to establish Vermont's recreation areas. The efforts of the CCC, particularly African American members who served in the face of discrimination, have had a profound effect on the state. 

First Day Hikes: An Icy Success!

By: Jessica Savage, Recreation Coordinator

On January 1st, 2014, people all over the state joined professional guides at Vermont State Parks for fun and frosty First Day Hikes! 

First Day Hikes is a national event sponsored by America's State Parks. According to their website, the event originated in Massachusetts 20 years ago. 2011 was the first time all 50 state park systems sponsored First Day Hikes.


These hikes are a way to start the New Year's off right: engaging in healthy, outdoor exercise while meeting up with friends, new and old. Add in a professional guide, and you will even gain some really great historical and environmental knowledge!


In Vermont, 12 hikes were offered including ones at Niquette Bay State ParkSilver Lake State ParkCamel's Hump State Park and other iconic locations. As you can tell from the smiles, the First Day of 2014 in Vermont State Parks was only the beginning of a year of outdoor fun!

Park Events 


Owl Hoot Hike

Friday, March 7
5:30pm - 7:00pm

Who, who, whooo......Let's call some owls! Experience nature at night on a family-friendly adventure with the Lake Champlain Land Trust. Snowshoes or traction footwear suggested. Please prepare for winter trail conditions which may be snowy, wet, icy or all of the above. To RSVP, email: events@lclt.org or call 802-862-4150 x 3.


"Almost" Full Moon Snowshoe Hike

Niquette Bay State Park

Saturday, March 15

7:30pm - 9:30pm 

Everything changes in the park after dark! In the snow under the magical light of an almost-full moon, join Park Ranger Lisa Liotta for an easy 1-1.5 mile, 1.5-2 hour easy snowshoe hike through the park with hot cocoa following the event. *Snowshoes or other shoe traction devices required for walking in snow and/or ice, headlamp or flashlight optional. Hike subject to cancellation if skies are cloudy or trail conditions unfavorable for night-time winter hiking - contact Park for updates: 802-893-5210.
Follow-up Links



Check us out Socially

FB blogger twitter 


 Winter is really growing on us!