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Slayton: State Parks In Fall

09/20/12 7:55AM By Tom Slayton
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(Host) Journalist and commentator Tom Slayton has been visiting state parks this summer, offering commentaries that share his perceptions and discoveries. Here's his summation of that summer-long experience.

(Slayton) Well, it's been a busy summer - and a fascinating one - visiting state parks to see what I might find there. I've walked a lot, paddled a bit, climbed a bit, talked with many very skilled and dedicated parks employees, and come away with a new appreciation for these wonderful places - places that belong to you and me, as citizens of the State of Vermont.

I've spent an evening watching flying squirrels beside the Connecticut River at Wilgus State Park, walked along a route used by Native Americans at Jamaica State Park , and camped in a spot surrounded by Lake Champlain on Burton Island. I've looked for peregrine falcons and rare plants at Smugglers' Notch, and followed the subtle trace of tiny brooks wandering through the forest.

I've climbed through history at Mount Ascutney , and Little River State Parks - in fact, one of the major revelations of this mini-Odyssey has been finding traces of history just about everywhere I've gone. The landscape of New England is layered with centuries of history; even the places you think are the wildest, like Smuggler's Notch, have had a long association with people - both Native Americans and those of us who came here later.

And there's been a lot of natural beauty, too: deep forests at Little River, Jamaica, and Calvin Coolidge State Parks; broad lake views at Knight Point and Burton Island; and spectacular rocks and cliffs in Smugglers' Notch.

But there are a lot more that I just haven't had the time to get to. After all, Vermont has 52 state parks, and I've only managed to visit about a dozen of them. Vermont summers are just too short!
Boulder Beach in Groton State Forest on a bright summer day

For example I wish I'd had enough time to visit Alburgh Dunes where there's a remnant of the ancient Lake Champlain shoreline ecosystem still intact. And there's an interesting collection of parks down near Castleton that are linked by hiking trails - Lake Bomoseen, Half Moon and Glen Lake State parks. I had also planned to visit pretty Maidstone Lake up in the forests of the Northeast Kingdom

Perhaps my biggest omission was the cluster of 10 state parks and camping areas in Groton State Forest. That forest comprises more than 26,000 acres and is the second largest contiguous land holding in Vermont. You can swim, paddle, camp, hike - even fly-fish there.

What our state parks offer, in sum, is a sampler of Vermont's incredible natural diversity. Vermont has more ecological diversity than some Midwestern states many times its size - and that diversity is reflected in our state parks. It's one of the things that makes Vermont different - and special. It's something we should treasure and protect.

From what I've seen, our state parks are doing a good job of that now. So there's plenty out there to sample and enjoy next summer - and for years to come.


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