Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mill River Falls State Something

Can you think of a place along Vermont's town of Georgias' shore where it’s forested and there are no cottages in sight? A place seemingly unspoiled by development where waterfalls lead to the shore of Lake Champlain . Somewhere you can stand in the shadows of tall trees while wetting your fishing line. I can, quite simply Mill River Falls is a natural paradise.

In the hundreds of times I’ve driven by it, I never really thought that much about the place. It was just always this bridge over the road that a bunch of people parked around. Occasionally I’d see a fishermen scoot across the road with a pole and bucket. It’s a relatively small area that contains a lake floodplain ecosystem, old river oxbows, mature trees, and about 1800 feet of shoreline. The Lake Champlain Land Trust press packet quotes Rod Vallee of Georgia as saying that “ Mill River Falls is one of the most important natural areas left in Georgia .”

Thanks to the diligent work of the LCLT and Georgia Conservation Commission the public will always be able to access this site. Future generations will forever be able to access this property as it is one of Vermont ’s newest additions to the list of state lands. “We had discussions with Anna Neville about conserving her property stretching back seven years before she generously donated her land to us in 2003,” states Chris Boget, assistant director of LCLT. He continues, “We retained a conservation easement and donated the land to the State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.” The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation website lists the 35 acre parcel as Mill River Falls State Forest .

The area provides more than permanent recreational opportunities for paddlers, hikers, fishermen, and hunters on Lake Champlain . It is habitat for many different creatures at different times of the year. Mill River is one of only a few places where Steelhead, or lake dwelling Rainbow Trout, are known to spawn. Four rare plant and three rare fish species call the Mill River Falls home. Large dead snags provide nest sites for wood ducks and mergansers. The marshes in spring are productive fish spawning and feeding areas. Mill River Falls is abundant with wildlife habitat.

When I first visited the place, two fathers had spread their kids out on the banks with fishing poles. Rock Bass and Pumpkinseed were biting today, the crappie action hot the day before. I rounded a corner in the trail to see fresh deer tracks, and was overwhelmed by the bird calls in the canopy above. It seems the place has enough to please everyone, except for parking.

Right now everyone has to pull off on Mill River Road or next to the bridge. The LCLT website says that a sign and better parking are in the works. Access is a bit hidden, one has to walk a bit down the Pines Road a couple yards to access the trailhead on the right. What a splendid place for a short stroll it makes. Apparently the only question remaining with the property is what to call it.

The LCLT lists it as a natural area on it’s website. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Forest, Parks, and Recreation lists it on their website as a state forest. I figured I’d ask whether it will be a state forest, park, or natural area. The folks at FPR told me to get in touch with their forester, the people at LCLT referred me to the same person. So I got in touch with Gary Sawyer the State Lands Stewardship Forester who said, “I don’t know what designation the Mill River Falls parcel will receive.” With natural beauty abound, Mill River Falls will forever remain publicly accessible, whether it be state forest, park, or natural area.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Fungus Among Us

So while I'm back at it, as fall progresses so does the annual mushroom season. You know, not the trippy kind, but the legal and legitimate edibles that you find growing in the woods. We've had a bit or rain as of late and it could stimulate a bunch of fruiting bodies. Do Not Eat Mushrooms.

Now I have no guilt harvesting and eating mushrooms because for me its like eating apples off a tree. The mycorhizae are like the underground tree, its not really destroying anything but seeds. I have a tendency to wander the forest and watch the ground as I walk a lot. I discovered fungi a few years ago. But to everyone else I say; Do Not Eat Mushrooms.

Fall is peak time for Oyster Mushrooms and Boletes, and especially my favorites; the puffball family. Do Not Eat Mushrooms. But I do.

Giant puffballs are those huge white semi-globes that pop up in fields and woodlands. If you cut across it entirely and its milky white, with NO YELLOW, I grill it. Cut it into huge steaks, but do not marinate, it ruins. Just grill it with a little steak seasoning though.

Gem-Studded Puffballs I usually find growing around rocks in colonies. They are again milky white, but shaped like a hot ait balloon from the side. Their tops are rough, and almost like they've been sprinkled with a white grit. Slice them up with a little butter and cook in a pan. My favorite is on the grill in aluminum foil.

Always check the stem, bottom, and wash the mushroom. Don't and you'll know why.

Do Not Eat Mushrooms.

Grand Isle Bridge Deemed Unsafe

The draw bridge connecting the town of Grand Isle to the town of North Hero has been deemed unsafe for two-way traffic. It has been made one way by use of traffic lights, and still continues to open for boat traffic. The drawbridge sits on US Route 2 and is the only gateway for sailboats to access the Inland Sea section of Lake Champlain.

This is more than an inconvenience for Grand Isle County, as Route 2 is the only north/south connecting road through the islands. Traffic bottlenecks have already been had, but the concern is the ability of the island communties emergency responders to cross during periods of high volume traffic. This is more than a hindrance for the two communities on one side, and three communities on the other who rely on the ability to provide mutual aid.

Word about town is that it will be four years before the bridge can be replaced. Studies need to be done, etc. The sad part is it was known that this bridge was in decline, long before the incident occurred to the west that caused all bridges to be checked. This bridge is so old the book "History of South Hero Island", shows a picture of it with an out house attached to the back. Deposits were quick and direct to the lake.

This is a serious issue facing an entire Vermont county, and needs to be at the forefront of everyone's minds. Four years is too long. There are several of these traffic choke points throughout US Route 2 as you travel through the Champlain Islands. This is the fastest growing county in the state of Vermont, it needs to be treated better than the bastard child of Chittenden County.

I implore any and all, if you see Governor Jim Douglas, ask about that drawbridge in Grand Isle? If you see Representatives Mitzi Johnson or Ira Trombley, ask what they are doing to get the drawbridge fixed? If you run across Senator Dick Mazza, ask him why his constituents have to travel every day over an unsafe bridge, when he is the Chair of the Senate Transportation committee?