2017 Wrap-up

2017 Year in Review

The BRAT's goals remain clear: to help people of all ages and walks of life connect with the Black River and, through these connections, to improve, maintain, and protect the health and integrity of the river ecologically as well as economically.

RiverSweep recap: Our 18th annual RiverSweep cleanup went very well, with some new partnerships growing from what would otherwise have been setbacks. Some 40 people showed up on Saturday morning, September 9th, to help haul trash from the bed and banks of the Black River. The usual "Tire Brigade" crew was prepping to launch boats from the public access at Hoyt's Landing, when it was learned that the Moose Club was having their annual fishing derby there on the same day. Yikes! Good news, I was able to connect the Tire Brigade with Jason of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and they paddled and pulled trash from the shores of the North Springfield Lake, our local flood-control reservoir. Additionally, I've been invited to speak to the Moose and give a presentation about the BRAT and all we do, with an eye toward a future partnership between our projects, since both the RiverSweep and the fishing derby both raise awareness of the river and the ecosystem's health.

More great Sweep news: the Cavendish Elementary School went out on Monday, Sept. 11th wearing their snazzy purple BRAT shirts and walked a third of a mile in the river to locate and remove all manner of trash -- much of it was old food wrappers, rather stinky and gross! Very well done, kids!

Lunch was provided for the Springfield Sweepers by Young's Furniture & Appliance, who also disposed of all the non-recyclable trash in Springfield; the Cavendish students were treated to pizza from Goodman's American Pie, ongoing supporters of the RiverSweep in Ludlow and Cavendish.

River Dipping updates: We've just wrapped up our 5th year of volunteer water quality monitoring, and I'm working with Alison Buhler on the annual report for the State of Vermont, as well a five-year recap. Sixteen volunteers participated this year, collecting water from a variety of sites around the watershed. We sampled 14 sites monthly, six swimming holes, Muckross Pond, and are expanding up into Mile Brook in anticipation of some project planning by the Town of Springfield and State of Vermont on the eroding, hilly terraces along its banks.

Rain Garden progress: We started with one small residential rain garden in June of 2016, and are duplicating that effort in the same neighborhood. I'm awaiting notification as to whether we won a grant to purchase plants and pay for some small excavator services. As the Town of Springfield sets its sights on some downtown improvements, BRAT will be implementing at least one municipal rain garden in 2018-2019 and staying in the loop as far as stormwater management goes and urban trees...which leads me to the next update!

Trees, glorious trees: Springfield now has a Municipal Tree Inventory of all trees in the public Right-of-Way (ROW) and a comprehensive Urban Tree Plan to go along with it. Both documents will serve to provide the basis of many tree projects going forward, from streambank stabilization to beautifying downtown, from homeowner education to community outreach, from invasive plant awareness and management to native species proliferation. Also in the planning stages are workshops that teach how to identify not just which species of tree you're looking at but how healthy it is and what can be done about it. I foresee guided walks through our town forests, Arbor Day events, and more.

Bio-blitz: I'm in the process of planning a one-day "nature-palooza" of sorts, an opportunity for EVERYONE to explore a couple of Springfield's beautiful natural areas and to discover the flora and fauna that's right under our collective noses. From mink and dragonflies to turtles and herons, ferns and fungi to pines and perennials, the Bio-blitz will encompass Muckross State Park and Hoyt's Landing, pending a Special Use Permit for each location. Much is being planned, and help will be needed the day of the event as well as in the coordination of logistics. So give a shout out if you're interested -- your participation will be most appreciated.

Getting the word out: With the urging and invaluable assistance of Patrick Cody at Ludlow-based Okemo Valley T.V., and with start-up funding through a grant from Claremont Savings Bank, the BRAT is putting the Black River in the public eye! A series of shows is being filmed to help people make "Black River Connections" by getting to know everything about the river and the land that drains into it. From the flora and fauna that call the Black River "home" to the people and communities that line its banks, from the physics and chemistry of the water itself to the path that rain takes to get to the river, there's a way for everyone to make a connection. Look for our first episode to air in November! (Channel numbers and date & time will be announced.)

New discoveries: 1) Muckross State Park's pond is teeming with creatures, from a ginormous snapping turtle to red-backed salamanders; there is also a number of colonies of bryozoan, a coral-like animal that adheres to submerged tree limbs and acts as a "filter feeder." Jelly-like clumps of bryozoan are considered a hallmark of clean water, so it was a pleasure to find so many in the water! 2) Muckross Pond is also home to a freshwater sponge; while not rare per se, these organisms aren't usually noticed, so it was a welcome discovery. 3) While fishing with his son under the Paddock Road bridge in Springfield this summer, Dale Ferland noticed a large dragonfly sunning itself on a nearby rock. Dale pulled out his phone and snapped a photo of the cooperative green-eyed beauty, and shared it. Turns out the Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) has never been recorded in Vermont before, so it marks not just a new species for the state but also the 100th official dragonfly species in Vermont! This was exciting on many levels, and will tie into the Bio-blitz project nicely as BRAT builds a chapter of the Vermont Dragonfly Atlas.

Please let me know what you're interested in, and stay tuned to the website for more!

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