The Garden at 485 Elm
People growing together:
a collaborative community garden in Montpelier, Vermont

River Corridor Protection

The Garden at 485 Elm sits on a piece of property with 400′ of frontage on the

Image property of WCAX-TV

Image property of WCAX-TV

North Branch of the Winooski River. We situated the garden on the southeast corner of the property. The riverbank area is in the 100-year floodplain.

That was a piece of prevention. The garden won’t wash away. Floodwaters won’t wash garden contents into the river. But it didn’t seem like enough. Even though this is a small property for environmental protection — just 2.2 acres — we want it all to be as healthy a natural environment as possible.

We contacted Friends of the Winooski River to ask what else we could do. FOWR people came in with U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists and a Nature Conservancy staffer to lead a workshop right here last August. Neighbors, people from local nonprofits, and city officials came to learn more and discuss riverfront protection, habitats, invasives, and native species. I blogged about it last year.

A video of the workshop aired on ORCA TV. You can watch it here. [UPDATE- the video is no longer accessible.]

What’s happened since then?

We have begun dealing with the infestation of Japanese knotweed. Getting rid of this fast-growing, endlessly propagating invasive that crowds out native species will take five years or more. Learn more about that here.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologists Katie Kain and Leah Szafranski organized tilling and a planting day for what used to be part of our lawn.

On Friday, May 15, staff from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Friends of the Winooski River, volunteers, and students from local schools planted:

  • 50 Red osier dogwood
  • 25 Choke cherry
  • 25 White pine
  • 25 Beaked hazelnut
  • 50 Quaking aspen
  • 25 Gray birch

WCAX-TV covered the planting event:  “Volunteers plant trees to help protect Vt. river banks.” [UPDATE- the video is no longer accessible.]

I was perplexed by the dismissive comments under the story. No one can do everything, but we can all do something. This is something we can do to help the environment we rely on to survive and thrive.

So what’s left?

Many people in Montpelier live on the North Branch of the Winooski. Property owners on the east side of Elm Street, on North Franklin Street, and on North Street could all participate in plantings like the one that happened here last week.

And we’re mortal. We want to protect the area beyond our lifetimes. We are seeking organizations to partner with us to create a river corridor conservation easement or some other structure to protect the area. Other river corridor dwellers could join us to create a viable conservation easement area.

We want to know that what began here will continue to increase the health of the river and river banks, and provide safe habitat where the animals (including humans) who dwell here will thrive.