We dress like bank robbers to grocery shop. We can’t visit or hug our loved ones. Too much screen time anyone? Fear. Confusion. Isolation and loneliness for some; way too much togetherness for others. Getting outdoors can help us stay sane—and healthy! Herewith are some ideas, prohibitions, constraints.
Governor Scott’s Stay Home, Stay Safe guidance encourages outdoor exercise, with social distancing and within 10 miles of home. In and near Charlotte we are blessed with vast outdoor resources. But be very careful when venturing into the outdoors—this is not the moment to visit a hospital for an x-ray or stitches.
Mt. Philo State Park
Mt. Philo State Park is not officially open for the season, but visitors can use the road. Park trails are currently closed. One recent weekday morning, at 7 o’clock, 22 cars were parked in the lot. For social distancing of six feet consider that the two-way road is 16-18 feet wide; the one-way roads a mere 12 feet. Please be courteous and walk single file when meeting others; walking two abreast, socially distanced, can force oncoming walkers off the road. And please, please, leash your dogs and clean up after them.
Town Link Trail
Never has there been a better time to explore the Town Link Trail! With completion of the Route 7 underpass, it’s possible to walk or bike 3.6 miles round-trip on the Co-Housing and Melissa and Trevor Mack sections of the trail. There are several dedicated parking spots on Common Way, which is 1.3 miles south of the village off of Greenbush Road. Look for signage for Charlotte Link Trail. There are also a few parking spots on Lower Old Town Trail, near the Route 7 underpass.
Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge
Despite some muddy stretches in the lowlands, this spectacular property is open to walkers without dogs. Views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from the upper trails are spectacular.
“Beavers are back in the park,” said Sue Smith, co-chair of the town oversight committee, “and we are delighted! We’re looking forward to a new ecosystem that may include ducks, otter, mink and amphibians.”
There is a parking lot off of Greenbush Road. To avoid the muddy sections, you might park on Old Route 7. Cross Route 7 very carefully and enter the property by the Thorp Barn.
Chittenden County has a dozen town forests, some of which include logging roads wide enough for social distancing. Whether you walk single file or two abreast, these properties include hundreds of acres.
LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest on Gilman Road in Hinesburg is, according to Google Maps, a mere 9.6 miles from our home in Charlotte. A little farther away is Hinesburg Town Forest on Hayden Hill Road West. Trails can be muddy as they are not maintained as walking paths.
Conservation land in Charlotte
The Nature Conservancy has closed its preserves until further notice. In Charlotte these include Raven Ridge and Williams Woods; in Shelburne, the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area. The Vermont Land Trust has not closed preserves that are ordinarily open to the public. On the west side of Route 7, just south of Ferry Road, there is a 22-acre tract of conserved clayplain forest, one of the finest examples of this ecosystem in the state. There are a few parking spots and an old farm road that leads to pedestrian trails that wind beneath the towering shagbark hickories and oaks.
Playgrounds at both the school and the beach are closed. Tennis courts are currently open with conditions. Social distancing of six feet is necessary at all times except for members of a household. Please use hand sanitizer before and after play—and remember that no restrooms are available. Both disc golf and horseshoes may only be used by family groups.
Recreation Committee Chair Bill Fraser-Harris reminds us, “Our well-being is enhanced by healthy outdoor activity. We are all responsible for keeping ourselves and each other safe. If our facilities are not used appropriately they will need to be closed.”
Upper LaPlatte Natural Area, Shelburne
This 65-acre preserve, accessed from the Zen Center at 480 Thomas Road, is part of an effort to improve water quality in tributaries to Lake Champlain, drinking water source for 60,000 people. Walking trails circle the riverside property. No dogs are permitted.
An early spring has resulted in good surfaces on dirt roads. Charlotte and neighboring towns have miles of dirt roads, kinder on feet and backs than pavement.
Because of COVID-19, Green Up Day 2020 has been pushed to May 30. But there is nothing to prevent you from greening up now—you might just have some time on your hands! Black flies have not yet emerged nor has the grass grown much, making it easier to find roadside detritus.
The nicest thing that happened to me this week was this: I had just filled a second bright green bag with roadside trash. A car slowed and the driver opened his window. With a lilting French Canadian accent the man said, “I always give a pint of my maple syrup to people who green up.” This was none other than Charlotte treasure, grower of thousands of roses, Yvan Plouffe! Casting social distancing to the wind I accepted his offer (with my double-gloved hands). I’ve been smiling ever since. Thank you, Yvan!
Some rules of thumb
If a parking lot or trailhead is crowded, consider another location or another time of day.
Carry hand sanitizer.
Don’t expect restrooms to be open.
Stay out of the mud.
Keep dogs, if permitted, leashed and close to you if you pass others.
Wash your hands as soon as possible.
If you feel sick, stay home!
Get outdoors. Be safe and smart! Enjoy!