Lamoille County Nature Center
Lamoille County Nature Center is a forty-acre nature preserve of diverse habitat owned and operated by Lamoille County Conservation District. Seventy-four acres of land on the present site of Lamoille County Nature Center was provided to the Lamoille County Soil & Water Conservation District by Norbert L. Decell and Esther M. Decell on May 7, 1964. The original area included a barn and was used to demonstrate land use practices for farming and forestry. The Decell’s were successful dairy farmers for over thirty years in Hyde Park.
Since 1991 plans for an official nature center structure were envisioned and we hope one day the vision will come to light. Without the four walls the idea of the “nature center” expanded our mission to include environmental education programs to meet the needs of the people of Northern Vermont. The preserve offers two self guided nature trails, a small pond, an amphitheater, a willow nursery, and a council size Sioux teepee where our summer programs take place. Wildlife sightings are frequent, from the resident and prevalent snowshoe hare to a wandering moose whose tracks can be found throughout the year!
The preserve showcases the changing face of the Vermont landscape. Once farm land, natural succession has replaced the open fields with early successional species. More recently, different land management practices have been applied to exemplify conservation strategies to maintain wildlife habitat. In doing so, unique micro-habitats provide an exceptional outdoor classroom setting to investigate of a variety of plants and animals. Techniques to maintain these habitats and different land management practices are demonstrated in guided tours, adult workshops, student led service-learning workshops, and children’s nature programs. The preserve contains these features:
- Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) – Throughout the property, land was managed using WHIP, an NRCS land management program available for landowners to create or maintain early successional habitat, prune and release apple or nut trees, and manage invasive plants, to name a few. Find out more about WHIP by contacting the district, or open the NRCS WHIP Brochure.
- Conservation Pond – Built through an NRCS Program in the 1970’s, the pond has naturally eutrophicated into a vernal pool creating a pleasurable picnic backdrop.
- Old Apple Orchard – Maintained for fruit production to provide forage for deer, bear, fox, and coyote, the apple trees are pruned and released on a regular schedule.
- Willow Nursery – Rows of willows were planted in 1990 to provide stock for willow bundles and stakes that are used in soil bioengineering practices when restoring and protected riverbanks (photos to the right).
- Wildflower Field – Once the site of a maintained native wildflower garden, the garden has naturalized to encompass a field of native wildflowers that bloom from early spring to late fall.
- Tipi and Educational Area – The council size Sioux tipi houses the day camp program for children throughout the summer. Each week provides a different theme to explore the environment and natural gems of the field and forest.
Education and Outreach Programs
Lamoille County Conservation District is unique in that a main focus of its mission and work is geared toward the education of youth, adults, as well as landowners. LCCD strives to secure grants that allow our staff to provide education and outreach to a wide variety of audiences. While Lamoille County Nature Center provides the platform and in some cases a place to do so, we offer programs in many other settings from libraries, classrooms, town meeting rooms, kitchen tables, farms, or even in the fields and forests.
School and Summer Camp Programs
Children and their connection to nature is a major focus for Lamoille County Conservation District. As the leading environmental education organization in Lamoille County and the Lamoille Watershed, LCCD has a long history of working with various educational institutions to insure there will always be children in the woods and on the farms. Throughout the year, LCCD offers a variety of explorations, minds-on and hands-on discoveries, and opportunities to get muddy, wet, and be in the ultimate play station of nature.
LCCD staff provides education programs throughout the year with children and young adults from Pre-K to College on the importance of valuing, protecting, and conserving natural resources. Junior Naturalist Programs framed with VT Educational Standards are led throughout the local region in libraries, schools, or at Lamoille County Nature Center. The Conservation Education Programs Brochure outlines some of the programs we offer. LCCD staff also provides professional development for teachers on a variety of science, environmental, and outdoor leadership topics.
To assist teachers in their environmental lessons, LCCD has Educational Lending Kits, Resource Materials, and Curriculum Materials available for educators. The Watershed page also lists a number of materials available for educators to use. Please inquire with LCCD staff for free or reduced program fees through generous support from the Green Mountain Fund.
The Lamoille County Nature Center Summer Camp Program is a favorite among locals as campers get back to nature by exploring and discovering the forests of field. Summer Camps are week-long day camp programs and geared towards a theme and age range per week.
Vermont Envirothon Program
The Lamoille County Conservation District serves as coordinator for the Vermont Envirothon Program. The mission of the Vermont Envirothon is to connect high school-aged students to the natural resources of their community, helping them to gain the knowledge, skills, and willingness to participate in natural resources problem solving. Participating students focus on aquatics, forestry, soils, and wildlife with an annual topical “current” issue that ties all of the study issues together. This year, that issue is “Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship.” Envirothon teams receive a variety of resource materials and hands-on trainings with resource professionals. Specific events include a training day on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at Marsh Billings Rockefeller NHP and Billings Farm in Woodstock and the Vermont Envirothon competition on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at Camp Plymouth State Park in Ludlow, VT. The team that scores highest in all areas at the final event will represent the state at the North American Envirothon. This event will be held this year at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland from July 23-July 29, 2017.
Lamoille Watershed Quests
The Lamoille Watershed Quests program guides students through the watershed investigative process and helps them design a quest, or educational treasure hunt, in their local neighborhood. Developing watershed quests provides a hand-on learning opportunity for students to develop an understanding of the water sources and systems in their community and then design a tool to educate others. This program has been funded through generous grants from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the Green Mountain Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.
Interested in going on a watershed quest? Try one of the watershed quests below, designed by students at Cambridge Elementary School, Wolcott Elementary School and home-school participants in the Lake Elmore Watershed Quest workshop.
Adult/Landowner Workshops and Farm Tours
LCCD offers a variety of workshops throughout the year for adults or landowners presented by staff, or partnering with private, local, state, and federal organizations and agencies. Topics range from Assessing Soils for Farms to Pruning Apples to Pond Maintenance. LCCD also partners with NRCS and FSA to coordinate annual Lamoille County Farm Tours in the Fall. Please let us know if you have a group of people who are interested in a topic and we’ll do our best to accommodate!
Interpretive Naturalist Walks & Presentations
Our staff are trained naturalists and are eager to share their knowledge of flora and fauna, natural history, tracking, and wilderness topics. In the winter, we have snowshoe rentals available for rent free of charge.
Service-Learning Programs for Volunteers
Volunteers are imperative to the success of Lamoille County Conservation District. Hundreds of student volunteers help plant trees along river in our Trees for Streams Program. Lamoille County Nature Center is entirely reliant on volunteers to assist in the maintenance of the grounds. Many volunteers offer their expertise but in most cases, LCCD educates and trains volunteers to complete projects by learning valuable skills and knowledge to apply to life lessons. Scouts, professional groups, church groups, and students are welcome to inquiry on the Service Learning Programs available.