EARTH DAY: Combined efforts to help local brooks

A wide range of groups have been working for years to plant trees near the impaired Allen and Muddy brooks to help improve water quality. (Observer file photo)
A wide range of groups have been working for years to plant trees near the impaired Allen and Muddy brooks to help improve water quality. (Observer file photo)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

A host of volunteer workers will descend on Williston’s struggling brooks this spring, planting trees to combat the intractable march of erosion and runoff.

The projects are funded in part by $6,000 allocated annually from the town’s capital budget for waterway restoration and matched by a variety of state, federal and regional grants and business donations.

“It’s a huge partnership of leveraging funds to get the Allen Brook back on track,” said Jessica Andreoletti, a senior town planner who has organized many of the plantings.

A crew from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps will kick off the string of projects on Earth Day, April 22. The crew will provide maintenance work on the thousands of trees already planted over 18 acres in the last four years, in a weeklong effort funded by VYYC, the town and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, said VYCC Operations Manager Kate Hilfiker.

In late April and early May, Williston Central School students will pull on their mud boots and head down to the banks of the Allen Brook to plant trees, with the help of Friends of the Winooski River. Girl Scouts will pick up the torch in mid-May.

The Intervale Center is organizing volunteer day May 25 to plant 650 trees on state property along the Allen Brook, near the fire station where the now-abandoned Circumferential Highway would have gone.

Seth Gillim, assistant manager of the Intervale Conservation Nursery, said he is hoping to get 50 local volunteers.

“You create this mini forest in a matter of hours and it’s incredibly satisfying for everyone involved,” Gillim said. “We strongly encourage families to come. Kids are great, they actually make the best tree planters.”

He said everyone who wants to help can, regardless of mobility level.

The trees—a variety of native species between 2 and 5 feet tall grown in the Intervale’s conservation nursery—will be planted thickly over approximately two acres along Allen Brook.

The brook has been included on the state’s list of impaired waterways for stormwater management and bacteria for more than a decade. Town officials and various groups have worked to repair the brook for years, planting 4,500 shrubs and trees between 2008 and 2012.

Overall, the projects have cost $401,100, with $60,100 provided by the town and the rest made up of various state and federal grants and other groups.

“I was kind of bowled over by the enthusiasm that Williston brought,” Gillim said. “We’re building on a number of plantings. It feels good to be kind of throwing our hat in that ring as well and doing our part in continuing the restoration of Williston’s waterways.”

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters purchased the trees from the Intervale nursery for the May 25 project, with Healthy Living providing additional funding. The town’s funds went toward plant protection—the distinctive tubes around the trunks—which Gillim said critically raises trees’ survival odds.

Andreoletti said the groups are hoping for “good growth for five years that will kick-start the conversion from perennial grass meadow to the forest,” she said.

“We’re just trying to speed up the natural process,” she said. “Trees have a hard time establishing themselves in those perennial grasses.”

Without large trees, stormwater easily washes away the banks of the stream, sending a cascade of phosphorus-laden runoff downstream. Trees help hold the banks together, stemming the erosion.

“If you don’t have a healthy functioning riparian corridor, that is, a forested area along rivers and streams … all kinds of dirty water, either through erosion or sedimentation, washes downstream and ultimately ends up in the lake,” Gillim said.

Trees also shade the brooks and create habitats for fish and bugs, which the Allen and Muddy brooks are lacking.

“Trees that fall in the brook are a good thing,” Andreoletti said. “They make the pool environment that fish and bugs need to survive.”

She mentioned that the Muddy Brook needs attention, too.

“We have all really been focused on the Allen Brook for a long time, but we don’t want to forget about the Muddy Brook,” she said.

The Muddy Brook is on the state’s list of impaired waterways for toxins, nutrients and temperature.

Once the trees get established, Andreoletti said the groups’ next battle will be waged against beavers, who have already taken over parts of the Mud Pond Conservation Area.

“We need to figure out how to live together in harmony,” she said.

A true Earth day sentiment.

To volunteer for the May 25 community planting, email


Williston gears up for Green Up Day

On Saturday, May 4, volunteers across Vermont will head out, armed with gloves and garbage bags, to keep the Green Mountain State looking green.

Last year, a record number of Williston residents joined the cleanup efforts, collecting 2.61 tons of trash and 1.12 tons of tires from the town’s roadsides. A total of 282 volunteers helped—from longtime residents to scout groups—filling 475 bags.

Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti hopes for similar participation this year, and plans to order 500 green bags.

“Usually the areas in town that need it the most are your main roads,” she said, mentioning South Brownell, Mountain View, North Williston and Oak Hill roads, as well as Routes 2 and 2A. She said she also hopes to get groups to walk along Allen Brook and Muddy Brook, and stop at the town trailheads.

Residents can sign up for Green Up Day at the town planning and zoning offices. Public works will pick up green bags on Saturday and Sunday.

Another group of residents is organizing a cleanup effort around the Brennan Barn on May 4. Residents and Boy Scouts will clear brush and pick up garbage around the outside of the barn from 9 a.m. to noon. Anyone interested can show up at the barn, located on Mountain View Road near the Williston Community Gardens.