Walking trail reopens in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE The Nature Conservancy's Williams Woods Natural Area in Charlotte reopened recently with a new trailhead and a small parking area. A joint effort by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and Alex LaBerge, an Eagle Scout from Charlotte, made the improvements possible and snowshoers can now enjoy the trail without worrying about downed trees along the way. A micro burst in June 2007 caused trees to fall on the trail, raising safety concerns for Emily Seifert, Stewardship Manager for the Vermont chapter of the Nature Conservancy. "Safety concerns and the opportunity to study how the forest regenerates prompted us to reroute the trail," said Seifert. "Many downed and living trees would have had to be removed to make the old trail safe for visitors. By rerouting the trail and leaving the snags and downed trees where they fell we have an opportunity to study how quickly they decay, how woodland creatures use this disturbed habitat, and how quickly the trees regenerate." The new trail -- located on Greenbush Road two and half miles south of the village of Charlotte and six miles north of Ferrisburg -- offers Vermonters an opportunity to study one of the few mature woods in New England. Throughout the trail, stakes, metal tree markers and ribbons are visible and serve as notices to the public that particular areas are plotted off for research. The Nature Conservancy asks that these areas remain undisturbed. While downed trees may be detrimental to outdoor recreation, they are essential for woodland creatures. Woodpeckers use the trees to create nests that are later used by other species. Later on in the process, insects and fungi will break down trees and eventually, those decaying trees will replenish the nutrient supply in the soil. The trail loop is under a mile long and the preserve is easily accessible for families and nature watchers. Trail maps and additional information are available at www.nature.org/Vermont .

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