The good, the bad and the ugly

The Long Trail. Photo from the Green Mountain Club

Good news!
By the time the ink dries on this issue of The Charlotte News, hiking in Vermont’s higher elevations will be open for the season. The Green Mountain Club (GMC), steward of Vermont’s Long Trail, offers numerous walks, hikes, paddles, birding and workdays in our region through the upcoming hiking season. A June sampling:

June 2: Birding at Winooski Valley Park District and Spring Trail work
June 3: Moderate 8-mile hike from Lincoln Gap to Cooley Glen
June 9: Camel’s Hump Loop, 6.8-mile difficult hike
June 10: Sterling Pond, 9.6-mile difficult hike

GMC educational workshops range from Yoga for Hikers, Women’s Intro to Backpacking Weekend, Birding on the Long Trail, Wild Edibles of the Northeast, Solo Wilderness First Aid, Hunting Wild Mushrooms, and more.

A full menu of offerings is at the Green Mountain Club website.

More good news
In recent weeks several Charlotters have spotted bats flitting across the evening sky on the Charlotte-Hinesburg Road in Hinesburg. An estimated 90 percent of Vermont’s little brown bats have succumbed to white nose syndrome, a lethal fungal infection. If you are interested in monitoring local bat colonies, contact Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, (802) 786-0098, to learn more.

Not so good news
The causeway in Colchester, the rail line-turned-recreation trail that runs from Colchester to South Hero, suffered devastating damage during a May rainstorm. As a result the causeway beyond its first bridge as well as Local Motion’s popular bike ferry are closed for the season.  Local Motion and the Town of Colchester are seeking the estimated half-million dollars to restore the causeway.

Not at all good news: emerald ash borer
The emerald ash borer (EAB) has been detected in Vermont. This invasive green insect arrived from Asia to Michigan in 2002 and has now spread to 30 states where it has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees. Recently, Charlotte Tree Warden Mark Dillenbeck spoke to a gathering at the Charlotte Library. The assembled learned that ash trees comprise about five percent of Vermont woods and forests, and all local species are vulnerable to EAB. About 700 ash trees populate Charlotte’s many miles of right of way. While the town is considering removing these trees preemptively, the Vermont Land Trust reports that in locations that have had EAB infestations for many years, one to two percent of ash trees prove to be resistant.

VLT reminds us that healthy, intact forests can be resilient and that ours have responded to two previous epidemics, the blight of the American chestnut in the early 1900s and Dutch elm disease mid-century. In response to those losses other species have filled in our woods. Oaks now tower where elms one stood, and silver maples have replaced elms in floodplain forests.                                            

Owners of “specimen” ash trees—those that are large and have significant value as landscape plants (shading the house in summer, for example)—may choose to inoculate their trees with systemic insecticides. This is an expensive and toxic solution but, to date, the only one likely to be successful in sparing damage to the trees. Application should be done every two years.

Charlotte has a team that will monitor the proximity of the borer and prepare the town’s response. Contact Charlotte’s Tree Warden Mark Dillenbeck with questions or concerns. 

Ugly news: garlic mustard
Road Commissioner Jr Lewis and his team have made a significant difference against wild parsnip that is spreading across our landscape. The sap of wild parsnip can cause second-degree burns on exposed skin. A drive from Charlotte into neighboring towns in July confirms that Jr’s mowing has helped reduce the spread of this invasive. Thank you, Jr!

Unfortunately, garlic mustard is also stealing across our town. Currently its white flowers tower over our roadsides. Why should we care about garlic mustard? If you love spring wildflowers—bloodroot, trout lilies, trillium, spring beauties, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica and more—it matters to you. Garlic mustard crowds out these spring ephemerals and young oaks trees as well. Each garlic mustard plant is capable of producing up to 7,900 seeds in its flowering year. Seeds remain viable for four to seven years. If you have garlic mustard on your property, pull it up, making sure to remove its long white root as the plant can re-sprout from remaining root fragments. At the very least, cut or mow before the plant goes to seed and place in a black plastic bag, as the flower will continue to develop seeds even after it has been cut or pulled.

Meanwhile, enjoy spring in the outdoors!