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NorthWoods and Eden Ciders announce Apple Workshop Series

in Charleston/Newport/News/Outdoors

CHARLESTON — Northwoods Stewardship Center and Eden Specialty Ciders recently announced a series of workshops celebrating one of the most important tree fruits of the northeast.

Apple Tree Pruning, led by Ben Applegate, orchard manager at Eden Specialty Ciders, will be held at NorthWoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston on March 29, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and will cover the why, when and how to prune apple trees, comparing orchard versus wildlife goals, and giving participants a chance to practice pruning.

Orchard Care on May 31, from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. will be a primer on the care and maintenance of an apple orchard.

Ben Applegate will lead participants on a tour through the Eden Orchard in West Charleston, discussing topics such as fertilization, holistic spray materials & schedule, thinning fruit, biological mowing, pests and disease concerns, and winter preparation.

At Intro to Cider making on September 13, participants will join Garrett Huber, cider maker at Eden Specialty Ciders in West Charleston from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. as he discusses the basics of cider making, leading participants through grinding and pressing methods, wild versus inoculated ferments, cleaning and sanitation, carbonation, and bottling.

The cost is $20 per workshop or $50 for all three workshops.

Organizers ask those interested to pre-register online at events.northwoodscenter.org or by contacting NorthWoods at (802)723-6551 ext 302 or emailing forestry@northwoodscenter.org.

Although several recent workshops and walks at NorthWoods have been canceled in light of the developing COVID-19 situation, the March 29 event is still scheduled.

This could be subject to change, depending on the current situation.

Prevalence of tumors in fish from Lake Memphremagog sparks public discussion

in Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Raised black lesions observed in 30 percent of the brown bullhead collected from two sites in Lake Memphremagog from 2014 through 2017 have been identified microscopically as malignant melanoma.

This cancer occurrence cluster is raising questions about the cause of the tumors and the implications for the long-term health of fish populations.

Studies suggest that tumor development is likely associated with multiple environmental and genetic factors, and study designs are being developed to test these hypotheses.

Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Secretary Julie Moore is going to hold a public discussion on Tuesday, March 17, from 4 to 5 p.m. to discuss a variety of environmental topics, including a discussion on the Lake Memphremagog brown bullhead lesion investigation.

“Lake ecosystems are complex,” said Secretary Moore. “The health of the fish in a lake is an important indicator of the overall condition of the waterbody. When new or novel problems surface, like the discovery of a high incidence of brown bullhead lesions in the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog, the Agency turns to its team of scientists to investigate possible causes and ultimately, identify solutions.”

At the meeting, Rick Levey, an environmental scientist with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and Pete Emerson, a fisheries biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, will provide more information about the investigation.

Together, the two departments surveyed Lake Memphremagog’s South Bay, Hospital Cove and Derby Bay throughout 2014-2018.

The prevalence of lesions and tumors in wild fish has been used as an indicator of environmental quality for many decades.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, Department of Environmental Conservation, and USGS National Fish Health Laboratory researchers have been working together to determine the causation of these fish lesions.

The results of this work will be presented at the meeting.

After an initial overview of the health of brown bullhead, Secretary Moore will open the floor to hear thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns from attendees.

The gathering will be held in the Dewey Building at 1 National Life Drive in Montpelier March 17, from 4:00 to 5:00 pm.

For those not able to make it in person, a Facebook Live stream will be available at https://www.facebook.com/VTANR/

Newport’s Winterfest finds a new home

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Over 800 community members came out Saturday to enjoy Newport’s Winter Festival from a new location on the banks of Prouty Beach.

The event, which had been hosted at Gardner Park for decades, included music, horse-drawn wagon rides, hot food, fireworks and thanks to some excavation work at the park this fall, a brand new community sledding hill.

“The Waterfront Recreation Path was a project we began at Prouty Beach in October to connect the bike path with the new trails going in at the Bluffside Farm next summer,” said Jessica Booth, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Newport. “During construction, our Public Works crew removed a lot of material from the park leaving behind some rolling hills and slopes next to our summer camp building. It didn’t take long for us to realize the potential for sledding there in the winter.”

On Saturday, local kids came in droves and tried out their snowboards, tubes, and sleds in every shape and size.

The evening was spent fearlessly traversing the hillside with friends, siblings, and pairs of parents and kids eager for their next turn to ride down.

Thrill-seekers branched off and made new trails in the nooks and crannies of the hilly shoreline, breaking only for sips of hot cocoa and a roasted marshmallow.

The more mellow guests, who were less intrigued by the sledding hill, enjoyed a variety of family activities including a progressive story walk hosted by the Vermont Land Trust and scenic wagon rides with breathtaking views of Lake Memphremagog.

Many snowmobilers rode-in off the V.A.S.T. trail to warm up by the bonfires and enjoy the food and fireworks.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and plan to make Prouty the new, permanent home for Newport’s Winter Festival,” Booth said. “It’s all part of the City’s effort to highlight Lake Memphremagog and create more outdoor recreation opportunities for our residents and visitors.”

Prouty Beach is closed to vehicles during the winter, but Parks & Recreation staff plan to keep a path plowed for access to that area of the park for sledding.

Families can leave vehicles at North Country High School and walk a short distance across the soccer field to go enjoy the hill.

Snowmobilers are also permitted in the park on the marked V.A.S.T. trails.

Local fisherman wins $5,000 ice shack from Newport Recreation Committee

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — The 2nd annual NEVBA Pike Tournament on South Bay turned out to be a very lucky day for one unsuspecting fisherman.

Jonathan Cote didn’t bring in the biggest fish that day, but he did purchase two raffle tickets from the Newport Recreation Committee to support the Gardner Park Playground and Splashpad project.

The tickets led to exciting news a few weeks later.

“We originally planned to raffle an ATV, but decided to go in a different direction after another local organization announced they’d be selling tickets for the community to win a 4-wheeler,” said Jenn Smith, chair of the Newport Recreation Committee. “Someone suggested an ice shack and it seemed like a good fit since we like to encourage outdoor recreation on the Lake.”

The committee, made mostly of non-fisherman, took their cue from member Vaughn Cloney.

“Ice fishing is big in this area and I knew there would be a lot of people interested in getting their hands on one of these shanties,” Cloney said.

The committee specced out a 6×10’ model with extra features like a fold-down table and sliding windows to entice ticket buyers.

“We picked a higher-end shack that people might not spend their own money on, but would give a few bucks for a chance to win, especially for a good cause,” Cloney explained.

Tickets were priced at $25.00 each or two for $40.00.

Once the unit had been delivered, it took less than a month to sell all 300 tickets and raise $2,500 for the Gardner Park Playground & Splashpad project.

The drawing, which was originally scheduled for Newport’s Winter Festival on February 29, was moved up to February 7 and the winner announced live on the radio.

The winning ticket belonged to Jonathan Cote who took home his $5,000 ice shack the following Monday.

The Newport Recreation Committee plans to host another SnoPro Ice Shack raffle next winter as an annual fundraiser for committee projects.

Community members interested in Recreation Committee happenings can visit www.NewportRecreation.org/RECCOMMITTEE or call the Parks & Recreation office at (802)334-6345.

4 women in their 70s to swim at Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Four septuagenarian women will be among the 90 winter swimmers participating in this year’s Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival on February 29 and March 1.

They will be swimming in a 25-meter, two-lane pool cut in the ice near the EastSide Restaurant in Newport.

Water temperatures typically run about 30.5 F and air temperatures during the swims in previous years have ranged from -10 F to 30 F.

Ginny Peck, age 76, of North Woodstock, NH, will be swimming in her fourth festival.

Local, Pam Ladds, of Newport, just turned 70 and will be swimming in her third festival.

Sharon Purdy, of Toronto, ON, also 70, swam last year for the first time.

New this year, will be Anne Coen, 77, of Canton, Ohio.

She is a member of a six-person team, “The Buckeye Bluetits,” who will be traveling to the Festival from Ohio for the very first time.

The Winter Swim Festival is now in its sixth year.

Each year it has grown, with this year participants coming from 18 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and Ireland.

Online registration is still open but will close on February 15, 2020.

For more information: CLICK HERE.

Northeast Kingdom October fishing report

in Newport/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Department fisheries biologist Pete Emerson who works in the St. Johnsbury office said landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on the Clyde River should be picking up this week, as we’ve finally received enough rain to fill the waterbodies upstream.

Salmon are starting to show up in the Clyde River trap, so they’re on the move.

If you want to try some salmon viewing, check out the Clyde Street Bridge or the pool just downstream of the bridge, the so-called “Fair Chase Pool”.

Emerson says you can often see adult salmon and even walleye holding in the pool in both spring and fall.

The recent rains and falling temperatures in the Kingdom have also cued the brook trout, and Emerson says they’re moving upstream into the headwater spawning reaches now.

NEK bass and pike anglers have been reporting good fishing in the shallower waters of the Memphremagog main lake, Seymour Lake and Norton Pond.

As summer stratification and thermoclines break down in lakes and ponds across Vermont these species roam more freely, and aggressively feed in the cooler waters.

It’s also a time on some of these lakes when you have a real shot at a lake trout in shallow water, often in the same areas as you’re catching bass and pike.

St. Johnsbury fisheries biologist Jud Kratzer fished the Passumpsic River right in the Village of St. Johnsbury the other day, and he says the river has many deep pools where stocked trout can survive the summer.

Kratzer caught four rainbow trout and spotted a couple of fairly large brown trout but was unable to get them to bite.

He also said he fished West Mountain Pond for wild brook trout and reports that pond brook trout are starting to feed again.

He landed one 9-inch brookie and lost a nice 12-incher at the net.

Fishing on remote brook trout ponds can be very good in the fall.

Good ponds to try include Jobs, Martins, West Mountain, Unknown (Ferdinand), Unknown (Avery’s Gore), South America, and Notch.

Remember using fish as bait is prohibited at most of these ponds to prevent the introduction of other fish species that could be detrimental to wild brook trout populations.

Hunting lottery announced for Bluffside Farm in Newport

in Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — The Vermont Land Trust will hold a lottery for hunting at Bluffside Farm in Newport. This is the fourth year the land trust has held the hunting lottery.

They will issue permission for deer hunting at Bluffside during three periods:

October 19 to November 1
November 16 to December 1
December 7 to 15.

All hunting will be archery-only because of the Newport City ordinance banning firearms.

These will be the only dates during which hunting will be permitted, and all applicable rules will apply.

Bluffside Farm has become a popular area for walking and will continue to be open to pedestrians during hunting season.

Visitors should be mindful that hunters may be present during these times.

It will be required that all hunters carry written permission and hunt only in the designated portions of the property, away from neighboring houses.

Bluffside Farm is located at 171 Scott Farm Road in Newport.

VLT purchased the farm in late 2015, at which point it was opened to the public for recreation for the first time.

In addition to hunting, community members have enjoyed walking and skiing trails, local schools have used the land as an outdoor classroom, and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps grows vegetables there for North Country Hospital.

More information and the lottery application are available at vlt.org/hunt, or call (802) 745-6303.

The deadline for applications is September 27.

Community celebrates 30 years of NorthWoods Stewardship Center

in Charleston/Newport/News/Outdoors

EAST CHARLESTON — The NorthWoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston recently celebrated 30 years of environmental conservation, education, and stewardship in the communities of northern New England.

Over 150 community members attended the event, which included a free community dinner, live music by Celtic ensemble “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” and a silent auction featuring items donated by local artisans and businesses.

Executive Director Jonathan Gilbert welcomed guests to the celebration and highlighted the premiere of a short video recognizing the three-decade history of NorthWoods, from its founding in 1989, to its current programs in forestry and landowner services, conservation science, outdoor environmental education, and the New England-wide youth Conservation Corps.

Sterling College faculty member Farley Brown reminisced with NorthWoods founder and past president of Sterling College, Bill Manning, upon the Center’s beginnings building upon an experiential model of environmental education to serve local youth and communities in the region.

Guest speaker Steve Agius, manager of the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge in Brunswick, spoke about the NorthWoods Conservation Corps which employs youth in trail and conservation work at state and federal lands throughout the region, and the importance the program has to the refuge system throughout the northeast.

“The conservation work being done on these regional refuges, from the coast of Maine to Long Island Sound, would not be possible without NorthWoods and their trustworthy teams of well trained and hardworking youth crews,” said Agius.

Luke O’Brien, previously the NorthWoods Trails Director, reflected upon the important and diverse experiences and relationships he built in his nearly 20 years at the Center, and upon the ongoing value of NorthWoods programs in being able to provide young adults with a connection to the land and boost in self-confidence at an influential time in their lives.

The impact of NorthWoods over the years was echoed by Gilbert as he spoke about the Center’s current and future work in the community and shared plans for the building of a new Conservation Barn to serve as a base of operations for expanding Conservation Corps and Forestry crews in years to come.

NorthWoods Stewardship 30th Anniversary Open House on June 8

in Charleston/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

EAST CHARLESTON — The NorthWoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston is celebrating three decades of environmental stewardship in the northeast with a 30th Anniversary Open House on June 8, 2019, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The event is open to the public and includes a free dinner, music by celebrated Celtic ensemble The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a video release, a silent auction featuring items from local businesses and artisans, and keynotes by local community leaders.

Join the staff and community as they look back on three decades of work, from the organization’s founding by Bill & Pat Manning as the Vermont Leadership Center, through the growth of education, youth conservation and land management programs, and the expansion of the campus to 1,500 acres of protected trails and demonstration forest.

Today, the Center employs local youth in conservation efforts in all 6 New England states, serves children throughout the NEK through their after-school and camp programs, and partners with federal, state and local agencies to provide ongoing trail, forestry, and watershed conservation work on public and private lands throughout the region.

All are welcome to attend this free event, located at 154 Leadership Drive, in East Charleston.

Great Blue Heron at Eagle Point. Photo by Doug Gimler.

Eagle Point in Derby ranked one of Vermont’s top 10 birding hotspots

in Derby/Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — With the arrival of longer days and warmer temperatures, Vermont’s bird lovers are looking to the fields and woods for a flit of color in the bushes or listening for an overhead chirp, whistle, squawk or honk as birds engage in their annual spring migration.

Some of Vermont’s best bird-watching opportunities are at the state’s 99 wildlife management areas, or WMAs.

Eagle Point in Derby was recently recognized by Vermont Fish & Wildlife as of the top 10 birding hotspots in the State.

Eagle Point WMA is a 420-acre parcel located along the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog on the United States-Canada border.

The WMA is located approximately five miles north of Newport City on the Eagle Point Road.

The property consists of nearly a mile of lakeshore habitat, numerous wetlands, large meadows, hemlock, and mixed forest.

It supports a great diversity of wildlife including aquatic mammals, waterfowl, grassland birds, and many other wetland and terrestrial species.

Eagle Point WMA is an important waterfowl production and migration
area, particularly for black ducks, mallards, and wood ducks.

It’s also an important grassland bird production area.

Short hay crop rotations and habitat loss to development throughout Vermont elevate the importance of the 200+ acres of grassland habitat on the WMA.

Grassland species include bobolink, savannah sparrow, field sparrow, and possibly vesper sparrow.

Also present are a variety of raptors including the northern harrier, osprey, bald eagle, kestrel, red-tailed hawk, barred and great horned owls.

Eagle Point also provides excellent opportunities to see a variety of wetland and marsh species.

Herons, bitterns, snipe, pied-billed grebes, rails, common moorhens, and marsh wrens make up a large portion of the species you will most likely encounter in the marshes of the WMA.

Visit https://www.nekwildlifephoto.com for more photos like the one above from Eagle Point taken by photographer Doug Gimler.

Craftsbury man awarded for helping save the common loon in Vermont

in Craftsbury/News/Outdoors/Vermont

WILLISTON — Craftsbury resident Eric Hanson was recently presented the 2019 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award.

Hanson is a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) who spearheaded recovery of the formerly endangered common loon in Vermont.

Hanson’s efforts over the past 21 years have included work to educate Vermonters about loons and their nesting needs, protect nest sites, assist injured and sick loons, and ultimately build a sustainable breeding population.

His leadership led to the loons’ removal from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005.

Statewide, loons have rebounded from a low of only seven nesting pairs in the mid-1980s to nearly 100 the past two summers.

The award was presented at Lake Iroquois, one of the state’s most recently established loon nesting sites.

“When a Vermonter hears the haunting and distinct call of a loon, we have Eric to thank for his restoration work and leadership,” said GMP Vice President Steve Costello.

Chris Rimmer, executive director of VCE, said that when Hanson learned of the award, he was characteristically humble and insistent that the credit was widely shared.

“Without question, a major reason for the successful comeback of loons in Vermont is that boaters and lakeshore owners have been made aware of what loons need, and they’re eager to help,” Hanson said. “I have over 1,400 people on my contact list, including individual volunteers, lake associations, state parks, game wardens, and other groups. These people share their love of loons with thousands more than I could possibly reach.”

The GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award is given annually to one person, business, group or non-profit that has made a significant contribution to Vermont’s environment.

The award is accompanied by a $2,500 donation to the winner’s environmental cause.

“It is no understatement that Eric has accomplished more for the conservation of Vermont’s environment, focusing on the common loon, than any of us will ever truly realize,” Rimmer said. “He has led VCE’s efforts to increase loon nesting nearly tenfold and engaged hundreds of citizen scientists and members of the public in the process. He’s one of the greatest collaborators I’ve ever known, and delivers results that have a big impact on the environment.”

Spring steelhead run up Willoughby Falls guided walk April 27

in Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Westmore

WESTMORE — Fisheries biologist Pete Emerson will be available for a guided walk at the Willoughby Falls on April 27.

The goal of the walk will be to observe the steelhead spawning migration and to answer questions from the public about the fish, the river, and the state-owned lands that border the river much of the way to Lake Memphremagog.

The walk will take place at 10:00 a.m. at the Willoughby Falls Wildlife Management Area, in Orleans.

Steelhead are a strain of rainbow trout that migrate from their natal rivers as juvenile fish when they are around six inches long.

They leave the relative safety of the river, moving downstream towards the ocean where abundant food helps them grow considerably larger than their stream-dwelling cousins.

The Orleans steelhead are content to stop their migration at Lake Memphremagog where they feed for a year before returning as adults to spawn.

Steelhead can return to spawn many years, drawing anglers who prize their strength and size. They can get as large as 24 inches and up to 6 or 7 pounds.

There is no need to sign up for this guided walk, just show up.

Public hearing on deer, moose taking place April 2 in Orleans

in News/Orleans/Outdoors

ORLEANS — Hunters, landowners and anyone else interested in deer and moose should plan on attending a Vermont Fish & Wildlife public hearing being held this spring in Orleans.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, April 2, at Lake Region Union High School, located at 317 Lake Region Road.

The hearing will include results of Vermont’s 2018 deer hunting seasons and prospects for deer hunting next fall as well as an opportunity for people to comment.

The presentation will also include 2018 moose hunting results and the Fish & Wildlife Department’s proposal to not hold a moose hunt this year because of needed regulatory changes.

The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Winter Swim Festival this weekend in Newport

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

NEWPORT — This weekend, 85 winter swimmers supported by 35 volunteers, will be competing in a two-lane, 25-meter pool cut in the ice on Lake Memphremagog.

Swimmers are traveling from all over the United States for the event, as well as internationally from South Africa, Scotland, Spain, and Quebec.

They will be swimming 25-meter, 50-meter, 100-meter, and 200-meter events, starting with a fiercely competitive 25-meter “Hat Competition,” starting at 9:30 a.m.

Newport offers the only 25-meter, two-lane winter swim pool cut in the ice, in all of North America.

The pool is cut by Michael Booth and Josh McCoy.

Four youth will be competing, including Margaret Rivard, of Springfield, NH, age 11, her older sister Vera Rivard, age 15, Esme Kimber, age 12, of East Corinth, and Denis Graham, age 17, of Verona, WI.

On the other end of the spectrum are two septuagenarians, Ginny Peck, 73, of North Campton, NH, and Kathleen McDonnell, 71, of Toronto, ON.

There are 10 others in their 60s taking part in the swim.

Approximately 35 volunteers will be supporting the weekend event, some traveling from Maryland, Quebec City, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Magog.

Cutting of the pool will begin on Wednesday.

A ribbon cutting and opening ceremony with potato gun salute will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Friday.

The first swim starts at 9:30 a.m.

Spectators are welcome to come out and watch these remarkable swimmers.

The Winter Swim Festival is organized by Kingdom Games which holds over 20 days of highly acclaimed running, biking, and swimming events in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Helicopters used to collar moose in the NEK

in Essex County/Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Residents may have seen a helicopter flying low overhead as the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department began collaring 30 moose for the third year of a three-year study.

The radio-collaring is being carried out primarily within Essex County by a professional contractor.

Capture efforts require flying just above tree height and are expected to take between 5 and 10 days.

“Many local residents may have noticed these helicopters capturing moose in January of 2017 and 2018, but we felt all Essex County residents and landowners should once again be made aware of this activity,” said Cedric Alexander, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s lead moose biologist.

Wildlife experts will be using nets to capture moose from the helicopter and handling it without the use of tranquilizers.

The processing of a captured moose is completed in minutes and is done using well-established wildlife handling techniques that minimize stress and harm to the animal.

Ninety-six moose have already been captured using these methods thus far in the study.

Department staff having been tracking collared moose for the past two years using the GPS points gathered by the collars and have been visiting moose directly in the field to record observations.

Vermont is the fourth northeastern state to partake in such a study – state fish and wildlife agencies in New Hampshire, Maine, and New York are currently using the same methods to examine their moose herds.

The study will be completed at the end of this year.

“Moose in the Northeast are facing a variety of threats ranging from a warming climate to increasing winter tick loads, and we appreciate the public’s support as we study how these factors are impacting Vermont’s moose population,” Alexander said.

Wild & Woolly Competitive Snowshoe Races February 9 in East Charleston

in Charleston/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

EAST CHARLESTON — The NorthWoods Stewardship Center will be hosting the Wild & Woolly Snowshoe Races at their campus in East Charleston on February 9.

The event kicks off from 9:30 a.m. and will go until 2:00 p.m.

During last autumn’s Westmore Mountain Challenge, organizers say participants requested a similarly spirited competition for the winter months.

NorthWoods trails in February offer a true winter wonderland experience, and the Wild & Woolly is an invitation for the community to come out and explore.

“We developed this event to celebrate some of our favorite things,” said NorthWoods Education & Outreach Director, Maria Young. “The beautiful hills and trails where we work and play, individual challenge, team support, and good cheer.”

IronWood Adventure Works, which hosted the “24-Hours In the NEK” long distance run on NorthWoods trails last autumn, will be coordinating race set up and timing.

The course will consist of a 5k, 10k, or 15k loop, traversing both groomed and snowshoe-packed trails through the varied terrain of NorthWoods’ forested campus in East Charleston, with a shorter 2.5k loop for beginners.

According to Young, the event is geared not just toward athletes but to their families as well.

“This is a great event for both competitors and families looking for a fun day out this winter,” she said. “In addition to the timed snowshoe races, there will be outdoor activities such as ice skating, canoe-sledding, s’mores, and of course the original Wild & Woolly, a costumed fun race around the pond in our old traditional wooden snowshoes.”

A hearty lunch of chili and cornbread is included for all attendees and entry is free for children age 12 and under.

The event coincides with the Island Pond Winter Carnival weekend, providing a great opportunity for families to spend a day or weekend enjoying winter festivities in the Northeast Kingdom.

Local teen swimmer selected one of Vermont Sports Magazine’s Athletes of the Year

in Derby/Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

DERBY – Fourteen-year-old Vera Rivard has been selected as one of Vermont Sports Magazine’s 2018 Athletes of the Year.

Vera and her family live in Springfield, NH and have a summer camp in Derby with access to Lake Memphremagog, where she trains.

During the winter she swims with Upper Valley Aquatic Club.

In July of 2018, Vera became the youngest swimmer, male or female, to swim the 25-mile length of Lake Memphremagog, which she did in 16 hours and 24 minutes.

Just as impressive, she did so against fierce headwinds during the first 15 miles, which knocked five other experienced swimmers out of the water, leaving her among only two who finished in Magog.

In August of 2018, she also completed the NEK Swim Week, 8 Lakes over the course of 9 days, double-crossing Lac Massawippi and Willoughby, for a total of 60 miles on all eight lakes.

At the beginning of the year, in February of 2018, she became the youngest swimmer to participate in the Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival, swimming each and every event from the 25-meter hat competition to the 200-meter freestyle.

This year, she leads a group of four youth swimmers participating in the festival, including her eleven-year-old sister Margaret.

She started her open water swimming in 2014, when she was 10, with a 1-mile swim at Kingdom Swim and a 3-mile swim at Caspian.

She has grown her distances each year since then.

While she was swimming Kingdom Swim’s 10-mile course in 2016 around the islands of Derby Bay, she and her mother fell in love with the lake, and her family bought a summer camp in Derby, with access to Lake Memphremagog.

NorthWoods Watershed Crew celebrates another year of clean water projects

in Charleston/News/Outdoors

EAST CHARLESTON — The NorthWoods Stewardship Center Conservation Corps’ Watershed Crew has completed its fourth year implementing water quality improvement projects throughout Vermont.

Since 2015, the NorthWoods Watershed Crew has installed infiltration steps, open-top culverts, rain gardens, dry wells, dripline trenches, water bars, culverts, and many more stormwater management practices that are designed to help prevent sediment and other water quality detractors from entering into the region’s surface waters.

In 2018 alone, the NorthWoods summer youth crew and adult fall pro crew planted 148 perennial plants, installed 65 infiltration steps, 40 waterbars, 13 open-top culverts, a rain garden, a 4,000-gallon vegetated swale, and 5 culvert headers.

They also implemented a fiber coir log with rock toe bank stabilization design on an eroding lakeshore.

While the projects completed had a wide range of partners, components, tool requirements, and scopes, they all shared the common goal of completing vital, practical steps toward improving water quality throughout the state of Vermont.

Step into the new year with a First Day Hike in Westmore

in Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Westmore

WESTMORE — While many are planning to burn the midnight oil to ring in 2019, others are aiming to get out of bed and into nature on the first day of the New Year.

State parks around the nation will host free, guided hikes as a part of First Day Hikes, and Jean Haigh with The Green Mountain Club will be leading a tour of Long Pond in Westmore.

Hikers will meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Long Pond Trail Head.

The hike has beautiful views of Long Pond, Lake Willoughby, and Bald Mountain.

It is considered a moderate trail with a few tricky areas.

Snowshoes or microspikes will be needed for this 4-mile round trip.

The hike is in memory of Dave Hardy, who devoted decades of work to the stewardship of the Long Trail.

All ages are welcome.

For more information, contact Jean at jhaightvt@gmail.com, or call 802-586-9637.

VT Fish & Wildlife to conduct angler survey on Lake Memphremagog

in Newport/News/Outdoors/Quebec

NEWPORT – The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is beginning an angler survey on Lake Memphremagog this December.

The survey will extend through November 2020 and will survey anglers on both the American and Canadian sections of the lake.

Clerks from the department will interview anglers on the lake 2 to 4 days per week, including Saturdays and Sundays during the survey period.

Survey activities will include visual counts of anglers, interviews of anglers to obtain information about the fishing effort, catch and harvest rates, and biological data such as the length, weight, and age of fish kept by anglers.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission funded the two-year survey.

Lake Memphremagog is over 30 miles long.

Three-quarters of the lake is in Quebec, however, three-quarters of the land area that drains into the lake, is in Vermont.

“The angler survey will provide important biological data about the fishery and angling pressure in different areas of Lake Memphremagog,” said Pete Emerson, a fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “This information is extremely useful to our department in helping us manage the lake’s fish populations.”

Emerson emphasized to anglers that all information shared with the survey clerks will remain confidential.

“Ultimately, anglers providing honest, accurate information will allow us to manage the resource moving forward and ensure that quality fishing opportunities remain in Lake Memphremagog for years to come,” he said.

Green Fire film screening and discussion at NorthWoods

in Charleston/News/Outdoors

EAST CHARLESTON — Next Friday, December 14, at 6:30 p.m, NorthWoods Stewardship Center and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Conservation Group will co-host a free screening of the film Green Fire, with a discussion to follow.

Green Fire traces Leopold’s personal journey and follows the threads that connect to his legacy today, an extension of the land ethic he championed.

In 1949, Aldo Leopold wrote in the Sand County Almanac, “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”

A panel of local outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and hunters will follow the screening to lead a discussion to comment on the film, their personal connection to Leopold’s legacy, and current challenges in rebuilding engagement in the conservation and hunting ethic that has guided many generations of north country residents.

Light refreshment will be provided.

Photo by Phil White.

Newport woman qualifies for upcoming Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival

in Derby/Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — A 62-year-old woman from Newport spent her Sunday qualifying for the upcoming Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival taking place in February of 2019.

Lynn Rublee swam 25 meters in 35-degree water at Eagle Point on Lake Memphremagog.

In doing so, she became the 80th winter swimmer to sign up for the upcoming Festival held on Lake Memphremagog.

Also qualifying this past weekend was Elizabeth Hershey, 52, of Conestoga, PA.

The pool is the only 25-meter, two-lane winter swimming pool cut in the ice in all of North America.

As the festival heads into its fifth year, the number of registrants has already topped last year’s numbers with room for just 20 more swimmers.

Registration closes on February 1.

Among the 80 already signed up, some of the locals include Vera Rivard, 15, and her younger sister, Margaret Rivard, 11, of Derby. Pam Ladds, of Newport, is also ready to go.

The pool is scheduled to be cut on Thursday and Friday, February 21 and 22, 2019, and the event kicks off that Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

Backcountry ski and ride project in Willoughby State Forest expands

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Westmore

WESTMORE — The Northeast Kingdom Backcountry Coalition, also known as NEKBC for short, is updating its pilot backcountry ski and ride project in the Willoughby State Forest.

The coalition began working with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation in the fall of 2016 to design and develop winter backcountry recreation opportunities that supplement the existing ski and snowshoe trail network in the Willoughby State Forest.

The project is the first of its kind on state lands to provide access and manage vegetation to provide backcountry snow sports for the public.

NEKBC says they are committed to creating legitimate and sustainable backcountry routes and hopes to stop rogue and illegal cutting on state and private lands.

Most recently, the coalition has been working closely with specialist Luke O’Brien, who is one of several such professionals across the state recently hired to work closely with partners, volunteers, and contractors on outdoor recreation projects on state lands, including sustainable trail development and maintenance, assessment and monitoring of recreation sites, and promoting sustainable outdoor recreation activities.

The collaborative project has resulted in the design of backcountry zones that include ski lines on Mt. Hor, and Bartlett Mountain.

Also developed is a network of uphill tracks to connect to the parking lot on Route 5A and the various backcountry zones.

These improvements complement the existing 12k network of groomed Nordic ski trails offered in the Willoughby State Forest.

The group says they continue to work to identify, mark, clear, and monitor trails to create a sustainable backcountry trail system in the forest.

Free Discover Girl Scouts event Nov. 29 in Brownington

in Brownington/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

BROWNINGTON — Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains will be holding a free information session for girls and parents on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Brownington Central School.

Those interested and their families will meet local Girl Scouts and volunteers, as well as learn about expanded STEM and outdoor programs.

They will also enjoy fun, girl-led activities, explore available programs, learn about volunteer opportunities, and register to become Girl Scouts.

Plus, girls will receive a free Discover Girl Scouts embroidered patch.

Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains serves over 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.

To learn more about Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org, or call 1-888-474-9686 if you have any questions.

Vermont’s rifle deer season starts tomorrow

in News/Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Hunters are gearing up for the start of Vermont’s traditionally popular 16-day rifle deer season that starts tomorrow, November 10 and ends Sunday, November 25.

A hunter may take one buck during this season with at least one antler having two or more points one inch or longer.

A point must be one inch or longer from base to tip. The main beam counts as a point, regardless of length.

Spike-antlered deer, mostly yearlings, are protected during this season.

“There are more deer in Vermont than there have been in recent years with the greatest numbers of deer found in the southwestern and northwestern regions of the state,” said Deer Project Leader Nick Fortin.

Vermont’s regular hunting licenses, including a November rifle season buck tag and a late season bear tag (for Nov. 10-18), cost $26 for residents and $100 for nonresidents.

Hunters under 18 years of age get a break at $8 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.

Licenses are available on Fish & Wildlife’s website and from license agents statewide.

Fish & Wildlife urges hunters to wear a fluorescent orange hat and vest to help maintain Vermont’s very good hunting season safety record.

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