ENEL Volunteer Day: Highgate Falls Portage, VT

Walter Opuszynski




By Walter Opuszynski, NFCT Trail Director

In recent months, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail has been working with landowners associated with the Sheldon Springs Dam portage on the Missisquoi River in Vermont to officially endorse and improve a portage on the south side of the river. Our hopes are to improve this corridor so NFCT through paddlers working their way upstream have a safer option to get around the dam during high waters.

Through this process we came into contact with Ralph Tomat of ENEL Green Power. ENEL is an energy development company focused on renewable energy. In Sheldon Springs, ENEL operates a hydroelectric facility and a large solar panel array.

ENEL organized a volunteer day for their employees across North America to occur simultaneously on June 5, 2014. Ralph reached out to see if we had any work that needed to be done for his Sheldon Springs crew, and of course, we always have work that needs to be done.

ENEL volunteers get to work armoring the culverts.

The June 5 project was to fortify a particular section of the carry trail around the Highgate Falls Dam (which is 8 miles down the Missisquoi River from the Sheldon Springs Dam). The Highgate Center Selectboard got behind the project, too, and made the town’s road crew available to help with their equipment. The road crew played a critical roll in helping to re-install ditching and transport heavy rock supplied by ENEL.

Armoring culverts is not an easy job.
Armoring culverts is not an easy job.

Armoring the culverts with rock placed by hand helps extend the life of the culvert. It is an upfront expenditure of effort and time, but the work pays off in the long run.

A well-armored culvert.
A well-armored culvert.

The armoring funnels water directly into the culvert an keeps the soil around the culvert from becoming eroded. Erosion can lead to a culvert’s failure and this particular section of the portage was difficult to get through for people portaging their boats and gear.

The ENEL volunteer group after digging out a silted in staircase.
ENEL volunteers after digging out a silted-in staircase.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work, services, and donated materials, this collaborative effort is a shining example of an NFCT trail stewardship project. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail extends a big thank you to the folks at ENEL and the Town of Highgate Center! Their work will be long lasting and appreciated by many paddlers.


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