The 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, and a council size Sioux teepee and tiny cabin 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 to create or maintain early successional habitat, prune and release apple or nut trees, and manage invasive plants.
- 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.
- 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, Tiny Cabin and Educational Area – The council size Sioux tipi and tiny cabin house 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.