Working with Communities

Butternut Hill becomes the islands’ newest community treasure

When you wander the new trails at the Butternut Hill Natural Area, it’s easy to imagine what birds find shelter here, or animals come to find protection from harsh winter winds.

Fallen trees grace the forest floor, and towering trees, some of which could be as old as 150 years, create a cathedral-like setting for kids and animals alike.

The trail, recently completed thanks to hardworking volunteers and the support of the Lake Champlain Land Trust members, is now a great place for family and friends to enjoy a quiet spot in nature.

It also provides a great outdoor classroom for area schools and youth programs.

Already, kindergarteners, first, and second graders from Folsom School in South Hero have been out to explore the Butternut Hill trails.  The kids learned how to call birds, identify trees, and slow down enough to observe the tiny things in nature—like salamanders and tree nuts.

Most importantly of all, they experienced the joy of finding something unexpected in the woods, creating a memory that will help keep conservation part of their childhood.

“Kids in our area, even though they have grown up in the rural areas, don’t often have a chance to explore and learn about nature,” reflected Mary Jo McCarthy, a teacher at Folsom. “This conservation area is a real blessing for our community and our educational programs as it will help bring the classroom to life in a way that sticks with kids.”

The Butternut Hill forest is fairly uncommon, as there are not very many floodplain forests left in the Lake Champlain region that are as old and diverse.  Other landowners have been inspired by the Keyes and Williams families who helped donate the land and conservation agreements to expand the conservation area.

A number of other families in the Lake Champlain watershed are now thinking about conserving their family lands to become places for the community to enjoy. They too want to help improve Lake Champlain’s water quality by protecting their land and restoring the streams, rivers, and floodplain forests.