Concentrated Effort at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

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By Walter Opuszynski, NFCT Trail Director

This year we had a river-wide focus on Vermont’s Missisquoi River. When I think about this river I picture farm fields, fun and challenging rapids, and the Bird’s Foot Delta. The delta and surrounding lands are managed by the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. This unique feature with supportive land managers made it a location of focus for our stewardship team this summer. And if you haven’t heard yet, its unique characteristics and passionate caretakers have it on the verge of becoming a Wild and Scenic River!

Satellite imagery of the Bird's Foot Delta.
Satellite imagery of the Bird’s Foot Delta.

After brainstorming with Refuge Manager Ken Sturm, we realized which projects would make the biggest difference:

  • Installing a Clean Drain Dry Station
  • Giving a Boat User Survey
  • Coordinating a Family Paddle Day

Clean Drain Dry Station

Once we had an approved project, we found support through the Lake Champlain Basin Program. The Clean Drain Dry Station is an evolution of the Clean Drain Dry Signage we produced and installed across the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in the past three years. It is a location where paddlers can follow steps necessary to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. It is especially important given the discovery of the spiny water flea in Lake Champlain. The spiny water flea is an example of the need for paddlers, especially NFCT Through Paddlers, to stop at the station before proceeding upriver.

Volunteers at an NFCT Waterway Work Trip test out the newly installed Clean Drain Dry Station.
Volunteers at an NFCT Waterway Work Trip test out the newly installed Clean Drain Dry Station.

This Clean Drain Dry Station is located at Louie’s Landing on Route 78 in Swanton, VT. The station gives paddlers a location where they can put their paddle craft on a saw horse to drain and clean it with a bucket of water and scrub brush provided. We have a rain barrel collection system that provides the water used to clean the paddle craft. This system reduces the amount of maintenance needed by relying on Mother Nature. Our NFCT Stewardship Team worked together to design this system and structure striving for sustainability, durability and user-friendliness. We will put the finishing touches on it this fall which will include a detailed interpretive panel explaining the features of the station and how to use it.

Clean Drain Dry reminder sign.
Clean Drain Dry reminder sign

Boat User Survey

To understand how paddlers are incorporating Clean Drain Dry into their trips and to determine how effective the message is we also developed a survey.  The survey also has questions that will be helpful to the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. The data we collect will help our nonprofit and other land managers support paddlers as they play their role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasives. Our Stewardship Intern Crew and team of volunteers have been giving the survey in person at Louie’s Landing during the summer and fall of 2014.

To compliment the in-person survey we have an online survey that you can take by following this link. The survey takes approximately 5 minutes and all survey participants are entered into a drawing for a set of NFCT Missisquoi River Maps.

Family Paddling Day

The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was extremely excited about getting families new to paddling out on the water. NFCT saw this as a suitable extension to our Northern Forest Explorers program and Youth Program Director Roger Poor helped coordinate a fun-filled day on the water for area families. It was an especially great way to get kids out on the water. A number of families showed up and new paddlers received instruction on beginner paddling techniques from Keith Sampietro, the owner of Montgomery Adventures. Refuge staff were on hand to talk about the abundant plant and animal life that can be found in the refuge, and the Friends of the Missisquoi National Wildllife Refuge hosted a BBQ lunch for all in attendance. Does it get any better?

Keith from Montgomery Adventures teaches a family paddling skills on the Missisquoi River.
Keith from Montgomery Adventures teaches a family paddling skills on the Missisquoi River.

As the Northern Forest Canoe Trail develops it’s tools for improving the corridor, supporting communities, and getting people outside, it seems to always be a home run when we can concentrate our efforts on one area. As we are beginning to plan for 2015 you can expect more of these concentrated efforts.

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