Letter to the editor: Middlebury wild worth preserving

This past week I went for a group hike at Wright Park; it was a mixer for the Addison Chamber of Commerce. The walk was hosted and led by Jamie Montague of the Middlebury Area Land Trust, and nature educator Mo Bisonette.
Wearing my office clothes and hiking boots and munching on new-growth hemlock needles (they are full of vitamins!), I realized once again that one of the most precious things about Middlebury is the proximity of wild plants and animals, trees, and the river, to areas of town where people gather to do business and socialize.
Chipman Hill, Battell Woods, Wright Park, the TAM trail, the park by Otter Creek, the footbridge area and the trail by the creek paralleling Weybridge Street all provide access to wildness that we humans ought to preserve. Wildness is good for us — it’s calming, nurturing, and offers a long-view perspective during a busy day. A walk through woods, by water, or in a meadow fosters health on every level. 
When creating plans for the new park spaces, I would ask the town to consider the ecologically sound and low cost plan of allowing areas of bio-diverse wild growth to develop in much of the land under discussion. Middlebury College does something similar to what I’m suggesting by leaving large tracts of its land unmowed during the summer. The outcome is beautiful. See this post from 2009 by Tim Parsons describing what was done at the college: tinyurl.com/yart4w3a.
The park at the entrance to the College, where the Town Hall used to be, provides a nice place for people to run about on lawn, have picnics, and watch movies. The section of the town green near the gazebo is great for the Festival on the Green and the Peasant Market.
Let’s make something different and wild in Triangle Park and/or Printer’s Alley — the fact that the land is right in the middle of town will make the wildness beguiling and unique — no one expects to see a meadow in a town square. It will mark us as people who still connect to the land, who still believe that wildness has a place in our lives, and who care to listen to the lives and songs of those other than our own species — the bees, birds, and other animals who will make that space their home.
I have three ideas: 1) Middlebury Area Land Trust does a wonderful job of maintaining and caring for land around Middlebury. Let’s ask MALT to manage the lands, and/or 2) consult with those who manage the Middlebury College property and emulate what they do, and/or 3) (this might be the best, but most expensive) employ a permaculture group such as Whole Systems Design (here is a link to their web site) tinyurl.com/yczcf4vn to create a food forest in the middle of town for residents and tourists alike.
Jennifer Stefani

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