Slayton: State Parks In Fall

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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.

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

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!

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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