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People and Place Feature in Parks Plans

woman in stream, white woman, blue tank top, woods no leaves
Erica Hample, a master’s student through the UVM Field Naturalist program, has partnered with the city of Montpelier to develop an ecological assessment of Hubbard Park and North Branch River Park. Hample will be presenting "“Ecology of Hubbard Park" on October 29 at the park as part of a series of PLACE based events. Courtesy photo.
As the Montpelier Parks Commission gears up to write an ambitious 10-year plan, it has created two initiatives to make it happen: hiring a University of Vermont field naturalist, and inviting public input through a survey and a series of walks from May 11 to June 11. 

The Parks Commission started this process by working on the two-acre Blanchard Park plan in 2021 “to kind of get our feet wet,” said commissioner Lincoln Frasca in an interview last week. It took nine months to complete the plan, and informed commissioners about what they’ll need to create the much bigger Hubbard and North Branch River park plans they’re working on now.

Partners in Planning

For starters, they needed more people, so the Parks Commission has partnered with the Conservation Commission and the North Branch Nature Center. With shared funds from both commissions, they’ve allocated $6,000 to hire a UVM graduate student in field studies, Erica Hample. Keep your eyes peeled for Hample this summer; she’ll be the one counting plants and other species for the ecological assessment piece of the plan. 

“We are about to go full swing into Hubbard and North Branch … it is a massive undertaking,” Frasca said during a walk with a reporter at the North Branch River park recently. Nonetheless, with the joint work of two city commissions and the Nature Center, plus a full-time graduate student, Frasca estimates that a draft plan should be ready this fall and a finalized plan completed in December. 

And the first step to make the plan, Frasca said, is to invite the public to get involved. The Parks Commission is about to roll out a detailed survey, he said, and it has scheduled ten public walks in various zones of Hubbard and North Branch River parks. Each walk will be led by two parks commissioners, one to lead the walk, and the other to take notes as participants ask questions and offer input. 

PLACE Making

“Our project proposal was not only to conduct the parks survey but also to bring the Place-Based Landscape Analysis and Community Engagement program (PLACE) to Montpelier,” Frasca wrote in an email to The Bridge. “The PLACE program is oriented around connecting people with the place they live, and engaging them in the exploration of the natural and cultural history of Vermont towns.”

An initiative of the UVM Field Studies program, Hample said the program provides communities insight into both landscape (including both natural history and human history) and community engagement. 

“The PLACE program provides local residents with a forum for exploring and understanding the natural and cultural history of their town landscape,” according to the UVM PLACE Program website.

Hample will focus on the ecological part of the landscape, she said, creating an inventory of wildlife, mostly plants, including a soil and geology inventory. 

“It also includes human history,” she added during a telephone interview, “because nothing in Vermont has not been touched by humans.”

Frasca said the management plan will include two new parcels of land recently purchased, which has expanded Hubbard Park by 80 acres. While there’s an interim plan in place for those parcels, he said, this new plan incorporates them fully and will guide commissioners in park management for the next 10 years.

Participate in a Parks Walk

Want to learn more about the city’s 10-year parks management plan and share your thoughts with commissioners? Join them on one of the park walks scheduled below. For those whose mobility doesn’t allow for a walk, or who can’t make any of these dates, the commission has scheduled an open house on June 14 at the Elm Street Pavilion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“This will be an opportunity for folks to meet with the full parks commission and discuss the entire park,” Frasca wrote in an email to The Bridge, adding that, “Each walk will be led by two commissioners and go for about an hour. This will be a space for park users to share their thoughts and opinions on park use and management of that particular area.”

Hubbard Zone 1

Southern half (pre-expansion), which includes all vehicle access, both shelters, tower, frog pond, sledding hill, etc. Wider trails, easier access, much more populated. Ends at the park HQ. Friday, May 27, 12 p.m., and Saturday, May 28, 12 p.m.

Hubbard Zone 2

Northern half (pre-expansion) beginning at park HQ, includes seven fireplaces, streamside, parks connector, and nature center trail. Thursday, May 12, 6 p.m., and Wednesday, May 18, 12 p.m.

Hubbard Zone 3

New parcels. Wednesday, May 11, 10 a.m., and Monday, May 23, 6 p.m.

North Branch Zone 1

Lower section from Cummings Street to Nature Center bridge. Includes the river path, meadow, beaver pond, stream drainages, pump track, and riparian areas. Saturday, May 14, 8 a.m., and Wednesday, May 25, 5:30 p.m.

North Branch Zone 2

Hillside with all the trails. Tuesday, June 1, 9 a.m., and Saturday, June 11, 4 p.m.