Watershed Center maps out events for 2014
ADDISON COUNTY — The Watershed Center, a nonprofit conservation group that maintains hundreds of acres of wilderness, mostly in northwestern Bristol but also in New Haven, held its annual meeting March 16 to plan its agenda and public events for the coming year, including a spring celebration and a birding outing.
The group promotes conservation practices and holds regular events on its two tracts of land for residents and school groups.
“One of our main chores is conservation of land, and letting communities have access to it,” said new president Scott Hamshaw. “We want to promote conservation and stewardship of the land.”
Coming up this spring, the Watershed Center will hold its annual Beltane celebration, an event that traces its roots to paganism in Ireland and Scotland. Hamshaw said the group had not yet set a date for the event, but it will be sometime in early May.
“It’s a great way for people to come out to the property and celebrate the arrival of spring,” Hamshaw said.
Also, the Watershed will host its yearly Warbler Warmup on May 11. That event, true to its name, serves as an unofficial start of the area’s birding season.
Dozens of members of the organization attended the annual meeting, which laid out the Watershed’s goals for the year and welcomed new board members and officers.
Hamshaw joined the Watershed Center four years ago after moving to Bristol. This year he was elected as president of the organization, a post Hamshaw said he sought as a way he could contribute more to Addison County.
“It’s a way to reach out more and become more involved in the community, and have the opportunity for more direct interactions with the town,” Hamshaw said.
His term will be for one year, and Hamshaw said the board of directors typically rotates its leadership positions. Board members serve three-year terms.
There are about 75 members of the Watershed, an organization with no professional staff that is governed by a 12-member board of directors. It will celebrate its twentieth year in 2015.
The Watershed Center manages 664 acres of land in northwest Bristol, near Plank Road. The group acquired its original 500-acre parcel from the city of Vergennes in 1996, and added an adjoining 194 acres in 2012. The land is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including many reptiles and amphibians.
“It has really significant ecological habitats not seen in the rest of Vermont,” Hamshaw said.
The parcel is also a home to Indiana bats, an endangered species native to the Eastern U.S.
At the annual meeting, herpetologist Jim Andrews gave a presentation of the reptiles and amphibians that make their home in Addison County. Andrews in his talk included the Eastern Ratsnake, a species native to the Eastern U.S. that can grow up to six feet long.
“It’s a completely harmless snake,” Hamshaw assured. “But it’s one of the larger, longer snake species people aren’t familiar with.”
The Watershed Center also maintains a 4-acre parcel in downtown Bristol, just off Mountain Street near the elementary school. Hamshaw said he hopes the Watershed will do more with that land this year.
“One of our goals next year is to reach out to the community and better utilize that property,” Hamshaw said. “That ties into the other goal of the Watershed, which is to promote the local community.”
Hamshaw said the group hopes to draw up a new map for its larger property to help residents explore the full potential of the land.
“The last map is from quite a while ago, and doesn’t reflect newer additions,” Hamshaw.
Hamshaw said the Watershed invites school groups and Hogback Community College to use the land for outdoor education. In addition to its conservation and stewardship efforts, the Watershed Center partners with the town of Bristol for its annual Best Night New Year’s Eve celebration.
Hamshaw said he hopes his tenure as president is a successful one, and that he is able to strengthen the ties between the Watershed and the community.
“I think the Watershed is a critical organization that’s enabled a lot of people to maintain access to a really beautiful piece of property,” Hamshaw said. “In a few minutes people can be out in this wild property and be with unique wildlife. It’s kind of a grounding place for a lot of people.”
Those interested in becoming involved with the Watershed Center can reach the board at [email protected].
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