SJA Field Semester Journal

FSJ Week 10 — Parks and Recreation: Season Finale

October 30 - November 3, 2017
Chris Dussault and Jessica Bakowski

This was the third and final week of the Outdoor Recreation unit. While the first two weeks focused on the various impacts of recreation, this week included aspects of sustainable trail development, how recreation (hunting) can be used as a means of wildlife management, and further examination of how soils are an important consideration when developing trails.\

On Monday and Tuesday students were introduced to a number of trail building concepts and techniques which they immediately put into practice on a new rerouted section of the Rank n’ Roll trail in Danville. Here they employed a bench-cutting technique that created a five-degree outslope that maximizes sheet flow over what will become a hardened trail surface, minimizing the possibility of channeling and pooling.

On Wednesday students visited the Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area to learn about how hunting is used to manage wildlife population. They also learned about how wildlife viewing in the area, aka birding, is a low impact recreational pursuit that draws birders from throughout the northeast.

On Thursday we concluded our soils lab research by measuring the quantity of differently sized soil particles in samples taken in the field last week. By measuring the amount of clay, silt, and sand in each sample, we were able to determine soil texture, which informs its suitability for supporting different activities such as trails, agriculture, and roads, and how prone it is to compaction and drainage issues.

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FSJ Week 9 — A Balancing Act

October 23 - October 27, 2017
Chris Dussault and Jessica Bakowski

This week we focused on both the social and environmental impacts of outdoor recreation. We aimed to have students weigh the positive impacts of outdoor recreation on a social and economic level against the less-desirable impacts that can come from overuse and over reliance on resources like fuel and water.

On Monday, we trekked to East Haven Mountain to meet and work with Mike Moriarty of Northeast Kingdom Backcountry (NEKBC) and Dave Senio, a local forester. NEKBC is a local advocacy group that seeks to sustainably develop and maintain backcountry ski routes in the Northeast Kingdom.

Students worked on clearing out some underbrush and smaller trees, while Senio explained how traditional silviculture can co-exist with management for recreation.

On Tuesday, we worked with a local Hunter Education Instructor, Linwood Smith. He discussed how hunting has changed in the 35 years that he has been in business. Students also got a chance to experience archery and learn about the technical aspects of the sport. 

On Wednesday, we took a trip to the south end of Willoughby Lake and looked at issues of overuse with Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation Stewardship Forester Lou Bushey. We discussed the move to develop the area to better accommodate the large groups of people who regularly visit the lake.

On Thursday, we took a grand tour of the different recreational offerings at Burke Mountain, aka Darling State Park, to get a perspective on an area that sees intense recreational usage year-round. Students got some perspective on the energy and water consumption necessary for snowmaking, and how the park manages resources for skiers, bikers, campers and hikers throughout the year.

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FSJ Week 8 — Managing Outdoor Recreation on a Vermont Scale

October 16 - October 20, 2017
Chris Dussault and Jessica Bakowski

This week we began our much-anticipated Outdoor Recreation unit in the Field Semester class. As with all of our units, we are examining outdoor recreation through the lenses of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Our central question for the unit, “How do we best manage our recreation resources in Vermont?” intends to have our students weigh the costs and benefits of the different types of outdoor recreation.

On Monday students learned about about VOREC, the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative. VOREC is a new initiative in Vermont that acknowledges the role that the outdoor recreation economy has in supporting related businesses and organizations. This dovetailed nicely with our visit to the Village Sport Shop Traill Side Shop in Lyndon, a retail business that has evolved significantly to address the demand for more specialized, service-oriented offerings and an increase in clientele who are from outside of Vermont.

On Tuesday students visited the Lonesome Lake Hut, run by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) in the White Mountains to examine the differences in business models between a non-profit organization and businesses designed to bring in revenue.

On Wednesday students learned a bit about the basics of sustainable trail design on the Field Campus. They learned why fall-line trails are not an environmentally sustainable design, and how trail builders take grade into account when laying out trails. They also had an opportunity to ride mountain bikes at Kingdom Trails, where they experienced different types of trail design and got a feel for how bike trails differ from hiking trails.

On Thursday students worked with Knight Ide, a locally-based trail builder who has built trails all over the east coast. Knight spoke to the all three aspects of sustainability in regards to mountain bike trails, and walked students through the process of designing and constructing a sustainable trail.

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FSJ Week 7 — Forest Products: Utilizing the Forested Landscape

October 9 - October 13, 2017
Jessica Bakowski

This week we looked at sustainable use of forest products and how to utilize our forest resources on the Field Campus. We started the week with Orleans County forester Jared Nunery and VT Land Trust forester Dan Kilborn. We toured the Mud Pond Conservation Area that is being managed both for migratory bird habitat and timber utilization through a Vermont Audubon program called the Forest Bird Initiative. Students learned different silvicultural techniques including crop tree release and uneven-aged stand management. We later put this information to use by working on our forest sampling plots to determine the amount of forest regeneration present, and we discussed the appropriate silvicultural practices based on this assessment.

Back on the Field Campus, students learned how to measure and estimate value in standing timber using a DBH tape and Clinometer. We later learned about sawmill operation and how to calculate board feet and loss produced by the milling process.

Students finished the week off at the sugar house run by the Academy at the Petty Rock Farm. We discussed how to utilize a forest stand for maple syrup production. Students also got some hands-on experience using chainsaws, cutting firewood that will fuel the Forestry Class’ sugaring operation in the spring semester.

We concluded our forestry unit this week with a group discussion on goals and objectives for managing our forested area on the Field Campus. The results of this discussion will be used in a management plan for the property that will be created at the conclusion of the semester.

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FSJ Week 6 — Forest Management and Research

October 2 - October 6, 2017
Jessica Bakowski and Chris Dussault

This week we looked at forest management for different objectives including research, wildlife, and recreation.

We worked with Vermont Fish and Wildlife and VELCO (Vermont Electric Power Company) to create wildlife habitat between two deer wintering areas. Students planted spruce trees through the powerline right of way, providing a connective corridor that provides cover as the deer traverse under the power lines.

We undertook forest-based research in two different venues this week. The first was at the Field Campus, where we set up a forest research plot. By setting up our own research plots, current and future students will be able to monitor forest metrics such as temperature, precipitation, tree growth, and species diversity over time. The second venue was Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, one of the longest running research stations in the country. Students learned how different types of forestry affect watershed quality, soils, and wildlife.

We also visited the Rankin property and St. Johnsbury Town Forest this week, where we learned how to read the signs of past land management including tree plantations, grazing, and logging. Students also received instruction on tree identification, and completed field journal entries that focused on the various “points of identification” that one looks to when trying to identify trees with similar appearances.

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